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2nd boro convicted felon to be freed under law change

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While the move was not opposed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, he said "this is not a case that should evoke our sympathy. The defendant was convicted of a serious drug trafficking offense and has been less than a model inmate while in prison."Arenas' 78-year-old mother, Norma Arenas of the Bronx, saw her son for the first time in more than a decade at the resentencing hearing last Thursday in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens in front of Judge Robert McGann. Miguel Arenas, 41, received a new sentence of 12 years plus five years probation, meaning he could be out of prison any day now because of time already served."He won't be home until the weekend, but we're all very happy and very grateful," said Norma Arenas, who spoke briefly with her son after the hearing. "We're asking God for the strength to make it until this weekend."Unable to visit her son in prison because of an ongoing illness, Norma Arenas instead joined New York Mothers for the Disappeared, a group that has sought to reform the Rockefeller laws, and she and her son became symbols of the campaign. Like other advocates, Norma Arenas and the organization thought the laws, signed by then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, were overly harsh and unfair to first-time offenders, minorities and low-level operators. They found partial success last month, when a new law reducing future sentences took effect.The legislation also made it possible for inmates sent to prison for the longest sentences to apply for resentencing, and last month Stacey Johnson of Ozone Park became the first Rockefeller inmate to have his time reduced in the borough. At the time, DA Brown called the defendant a "model inmate."However, in Arenas' case, Brown said the inmate had committed 11 infractions in prison, including assaulting another convict, engaging in gang activity, interfering with a corrections employee and failing to obey orders. The DA said Miguel Arenas could have been paroled in 2003 had it not been for the offenses and said the man's case was not worthy of public sympathy.The comments echoed a letter to the editor Brown wrote to Newsday in 2001, responding to calls for Rockefeller reform and asserting that Miguel Arenas and another drug convict deserved to be in prison and off the street. Some reform advocates have accused Brown of resisting changes to the drug laws, but the DA's office has denied the claims.Miguel Arenas, an Air Force veteran, was working as a subway train manager in Jamaica when he was charged in 1993 with selling cocaine wholesale to fellow employees. The following year he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Under the changes to the Rockefeller laws, the sentence would have been between eight and 20 years."Hopefully, he will not return to his vocation as a mid-level drug dealer," DA Brown said.Statewide, there are 442 inmates who are eligible for resentencing, with more than three dozen of the cases in Queens. Reform advocates have said the changes to the laws did not go far enough and have vowed to continue their fight.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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