CHARLESTON – Dante DiTrapano was sentenced to 24 months in prison Wednesday, the maximum allowed under federal guidelines for violating terms of his supervised release.
U.S. District Judge David Faber sentenced the suspended Charleston attorney after he waived his right to the revocation hearing after he was cited April 1 with simple possession of methamphetamine by Charleston police.
Guidelines recommended DiTrapano receive a three- to nine-month sentence, but Faber opted to sentence him to the maximum.
"In light of the history of this case … this might seem harsh, but it is the best thing for you," Faber said as he handed down the sentence.
Most of those in the courtroom seemed surprised at the sentence considering the federal guidelines and a recommendation by DiTrapano attorney Michael Del Guidice that he be sent to a drug treatment facility.
"I'm flabbergasted," Del Guidice said as he left the courthouse. "They've already tried incarceration. That doesn't help him treat his disease."
Last week, DiTrapano surrendered to U.S. Marshals after he had been wanted on charges that he violated terms of his release following a conviction last year on federal firearms charges. In the April 1 police report, Patrolman Justin A. Hackney said he found what he suspected was a crack pipe in DiTrapano's rear pocket along with some white powder residue and less than a gram of meth.
During Wednesday's hearing, DiTrapano also pleaded to Faber for leniency.
"I'd like to apologize to the court for taking up more of its time, to my probation officer, to my family, to my children, to the legal community and to all of the people I disappointed again," he said. "I have come to realize I have an illness, and I didn't make proper decisions … to talk to people who care for me."
DiTrapano told Faber he was clean in January and February after being released after serving time for federal firearms charges. But then, he said, stress got to him.
"What happened, I believe, was when the bank took my home in South Hills," DiTrapano said. "I felt … I was a disappointment to my family and the people dependent on me.
"I got into some self-pity. … And these mistakes cost me. I'm asking the court to give me the opportunity to get well."
Del Guidice echoed DiTrapano's comments.
"Dante is stubborn and wants to do things himself," Del Guidice said. "He was trying to put his life back together without the help of the people who love him."
Del Guidice told Faber that all three of DiTrapano's properties are in foreclosure and that his client was worried about his wife and children.
"Basically, he caved under stress and relapsed," Del Guidice said. "He does have a disease, a disease of addiction.
"He has been humbled somewhat. He's here to accept whatever sentencing the court decides."
Still, that didn't sway Faber, who said he'll recommend DiTrapano be sent to the federal prison in Ashland, Ky., or another one close to home that offers a drug treatment program.
"You can get counseling and treatment from experts in the federal prison system," Faber told DiTrapano. "I will recommend that the Bureau of Prisons give you the chance to take part in drug treatment."
After the sentence was handed down, DiTrapano asked that he not be sent to the federal prison in Beckley because of trouble he had there near the end of time there in January. He also asked Faber to allow him to be released on home confinement – even with daily drug testing – to get his affairs in order before he is sent to prison.
"I just can't do that in light of your past violations and conduct," Faber said. "You've got enough troubles as it is."
After the hearing, DiTrapano's father-in-law expressed outrage at the sentencing.
"That was a miscarriage of justice," said James Coleman, who also is an attorney. "To send a person to prison because he has an illness is a violation of his constitutional rights.
"Where is John Hinckley now? He's under federal supervision, but he's in a hospital. He has an illness, too.
"This man (DiTrapano) is sick. This disease will kill him. They (the court) don't understand what an addiction is."
DiTrapano's recent string of troubles began last March when he and his wife Teri were arrested at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Hilton and charged with possession of crack cocaine. Both of them were released on bond from Pinellas County Jail. The couple, as well as three individuals from the area, also was arrested for possession and a variety of other charges.
Officials said there were 73 pieces of crack cocaine and 21 grams of powder cocaine in the room when the arrests occurred. Dante DiTrapano told officers he and the others were having one last party before he entered a drug rehab facility there.
Last April, federal, state and local agents confiscated guns, ammunition, prescription drugs, drug paraphernalia and other personal items during a six-hour search of the DiTrapano home.
In early June, DiTrapano was cited with four driving related charges after a State Trooper pulled him over near St. Albans because of an expired state inspection sticker and an expired registration. DiTrapano also couldn't produce proof of insurance or a current operator's license because it already had been suspended. And DiTrapano already had been convicted of driving suspended on Nov. 21, 2005.
In July, DiTrapano pleaded guilty to a federal drug and weapons charge and was ordered into a drug treatment facility until his sentencing. DiTrapano pleaded guilty to a charge that he was a drug addict in possession of firearms, which is a violation of federal law.
After pleading guilty before going to rehab, DiTrapano paid a $10,000 bond and signed court documents agreeing to, among other things, not possess firearms or weapons, not to travel outside the Southern District of West Virginia. He also agreed to submit to random urine tests.
In September, DiTrapano's bond was revoked after an Aug. 29 urine specimen tested positive for cocaine. Just before that, DiTrapano had been put back in jail after violating terms of his home confinement. That was after federal probation officers filed a petition showing DiTrapano violated the home confinement conditions of his bond at least 12 times in the 12 days since he was released from a Huntington drug rehabilitation center.
In January, DiTrapano was arrested again on the day he was scheduled to be released from prison. DiTrapano, who was finishing a sentence on a federal firearms conviction, was arrested on Georgia fugitive charges. In June, Magistrate Mary Stanley revealed that DiTrapano had been arrested in Georgia in April on charges of felony cocaine and misdemeanor marijuana possession.