COLUMBIA -- Former S.C. Treasurer Thomas Ravenel deserves no prison time on his federal cocaine charge because he is not a "drug lord" and has made "unique" contributions to the state, his attorneys contend in court papers.
"Ravenel was no drug profiteer," Charleston lawyers Bart Daniel and Gedney Howe said in an 11-page memorandum recommending probation only for the multimillionaire real estate developer. "He was a man suffering cocaine's spell who chose to share it with acquaintances."
Included with the memorandum were 13 letters of support to U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson from relatives, friends, former co-workers and business associates of Ravenel.
Business partner Robert Crawford Jr. said though his friend of nearly 20 years is "suffering a true fall from grace," he also is a "creator of opportunity for many," citing planned shopping centers in South Carolina and Tennessee.
Efforts Tuesday to reach Ravenel or his attorneys were unsuccessful.
In court papers filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Columbia, Ravenel's attorneys said the U.S. Probation Office, which prepares a pre-sentence report for the court, recommended a sentence of 10 to 16 months.
The State newspaper earlier reported that under terms of a plea agreement, Ravenel likely would receive a sentence ranging from probation only up to two years in prison.
Under current sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, Ravenel would have to serve at least five months in prison of his 10- to 16-month recommended sentence, and no probation would be allowed.
Ravenel is asking for exceptions, citing, for example, the "substantial assistance" he provided authorities. In court papers, his lawyers said prison time could "actually undermine the progress he has made" in drug treatment and counseling programs.
"Mr. Ravenel has cooperated and has provided assistance," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said Tuesday. "It remains to be seen whether that assistance is substantial enough to justify (an exception)."
Columbia attorney John Barton, a former longtime assistant U.S. attorney who is not involved with the case, said Tuesday such assistance usually involves information the defendant provides that leads to the prosecution of someone else.
Authorities have not said whether Ravenel led them to co-defendant Pasquale Pellicoro, a Charleston-area wine-tasting expert who was indicted after him. Pellicoro failed to show up for a September court hearing and remains at large.
The sentencing for Ravenel, who is free on a bond that didn't require him to put up any money, hasn't been set, though McDonald said he expected it to happen next month.
Ravenel, 45, pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute less than 500 grams, or about a pound, of powder cocaine. He is accused of sharing cocaine with friends at his Charleston mansion, though not selling it.