In New York
The probation unit of the US federal court system has recommended that confessed Kenyan drug trafficker Baktash Akasha be sentenced to life imprisonment.
That development was divulged by defence attorney George Goltzer in a recent request for postponement of Baktash’s scheduled March 15 sentencing in a federal courtroom in New York.
In a letter to presiding Judge Victor Marrero, Mr Goltzer said the proposed life sentence for his client amounted to “an extraordinary recommendation in light of the circumstances in this case.”
The attorney added in his letter that because 43-year-old Baktash “is facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison,” the defence team seeks to ensure that “every avenue of obtaining mitigation information and records has been thoroughly exhausted before sentencing.”
Attorney Goltzer noted that he has already obtained “numerous mitigation documents” to be presented in support of a lesser sentence for his client. Mr Goltzer added, however, that he is “still endeavouring to obtain certain key mitigation documents such as school records and medical records.”
Judge Marrero acceded to the request for postponement of Baktash’s sentencing date, which is now set for April 19.
He had pleaded guilty in October on drug-trafficking charges along with his younger brother, Ibrahim Akasha. The two confessed to having attempted to smuggle 99kg of heroin into the United States and to obstructing justice by bribing criminal justice officials in Kenya.
The Kenyan bribe-takers have not been named in US court documents.
In accordance with federal sentencing guidelines, the Akasha brothers could each receive prison terms ranging from 10 years to life. Judge Marrero has authority, however, to impose whatever sentences he sees fit.
The probation unit of the US federal court system conducts interviews with confessed or convicted criminals before their sentencing to help determine what lengths of sentence might be warranted.
Subsequent reports prepared by probation officials are not made public. And Mr Goltzer declined in a telephone interview on Friday to comment on the probation unit’s recommendation of life imprisonment for Baktash.
It is not known whether a life sentence has also been recommended for Ibrahim. His defence attorney, Dawn Cardi, did not return telephone calls requesting comment. Ms Cardi did also ask Judge Marrero last month to postpone her client’s scheduled March 15 sentencing, which was to have been handed down the same day as Baktash’s.
“I have determined that retention of a mitigation specialist is necessary to adequately and effectively represent Ibrahim [Akasha] at his sentencing,” Ms Cardi wrote in a letter to Judge Marrero.
“Without a fulsome report on [Ibrahim Akasha’s] life and experiences, the court will not have an accurate picture of the ‘history and characteristics’ of the defendant, a fundamental and important aspect any sentencing proceeding,” the attorney added.
Judge Marrero also acceded to Ms Cardi’s request. He set May 31 as the sentencing date for Ibrahim.
The two brothers will learn their respective fates more than a month apart. Both men have been held in New York detention facilities for more than two years.
They were initially arrested on drug charges in Mombasa in 2014 along with Gulam Hussein, a Pakistan national, and Vijaygiri Goswami, a citizen of India.