judge admonishes Scheinblum
Alex Wood, Journal Inquirer, 11/17/2004
Court Judge Howard Scheinblum often
seems like a man from another era.
Known for his stern demeanor --
but not for imposing unduly harsh
sentences -- Scheinblum
often has plea-bargained directly
with criminal defendants at their
first court appearances, inducing
them to plead guilty without benefit
of legal advice.
A federal judge reviewed
one such guilty plea on Tuesday
before imposing sentence on Jose
Figueroa, 35, a former Hartford
resident who has pleaded guilty
to a federal charge stemming from
his involvement in a heroin packaging
operation on Hanmer Street in East
Hartford last spring.
Figueroa's guilty plea before Scheinblum
in a 1999 drug-possession case increased
his sentence range under federal
guidelines. But the 1999 conviction,
in Hartford Superior Court, wouldn't
count in the guideline calculation
if it was found to have been obtained
in violation of Figueroa's constitutional
right to a lawyer.
Judge Mark R. Kravitz ruled during
Tuesday's sentencing in U.S. District
Court in New Haven that Figueroa's
constitutional rights had not been
violated because he knowingly and
intelligently waived his right to
a lawyer during the 1999 plea hearing.
As a result, Kravitz counted the
1999 conviction in the guideline
calculation, which increased Figueroa's
minimum prison sentence from 70
to 77 months.
The federal judge then imposed the
77-month minimum, which is almost
6½ years. But Kravitz also
made clear that he disapproved of
Scheinblum's handling of the 1999
plea. "I do not condone this
kind of process at all, and I don't
want to be seen as rubber-stamping
it," the federal judge said.
Kravitz described a number of aspects
of the 1999 plea hearing as "troubling."
For example, he said, Scheinblum
took Figueroa's guilty plea before
reminding him of his right to a
lawyer. Later, according to
a transcript of the hearing, Scheinblum
said, "Now, do you want to
go ahead without a lawyer and I
will give you what I said I was
going to do?" Kravitz
described that as "kind of
a quid pro quo" for Figueroa's
agreement to give up his right to
counsel. He said Figueroa might
not have insisted on having a lawyer
"because he felt he might lose
the deal he got."
Figueroa had testified earlier in
Tuesday's sentencing hearing that
he was a heroin addict and was going
through withdrawal when he entered
the guilty plea on May 28, 1999.
Because he was withdrawing from
drugs, he said, "I didn't want
to sit there patiently like I am
now. I just wanted to get the case
over with." In describing
withdrawal, Figueroa said, "My
bones ached. My body aches. I feel
exhausted. I'm impatient."
Kravitz acknowledged that "this
defendant has a history of drug
abuse and going through withdrawal."
But he also said Figueroa knew he
had a right to counsel, in that
he had been represented by lawyers
in a number of previous criminal
cases. Figueroa had 10 criminal
convictions before the 1999 plea,
including four burglary convictions
and a conviction of carrying a pistol
without a permit, as well as convictions
for larcenies, drug offenses, and
Federal prosecutor Anastasia Enos
didn't seek to count another guilty
plea Figueroa entered before Scheinblum
in the sentencing-guideline calculation,
effectively acknowledging that his
constitutional right to a lawyer
was violated in that 1997 case.
But that concession had no effect
on his sentence because the 1999
conviction put Figueroa in the guidelines'
most serious criminal-history category.
Figueroa was a relatively minor
participant in the Hanmer Street
heroin operation, which police and
federal agents raided on April 14.
His role was to help cut and package
the heroin. But it was a relatively
significant operation. When agents
raided the apartment at 73-A Hanmer
St., they found 87 grams of unprocessed
heroin and 6,600 street bags ready
for sale. Pablo Velez, whom authorities
portray as the leader of the packaging
operation, admitted throwing about
1,500 more street bags out the window
of a car after realizing that police
were following him.
Figueroa has the chance of getting
a year off his prison sentence if
he completes a 500-hour drug treatment
program in prison. Enos said Figueroa,
who has been in jail since his arrest
in April, is healthier now than
he was then. After he is released
from prison, he will be on probation
for four years, during which any
violation of court-imposed conditions
could result in up to three more
years in prison.
Ellington, CT 06029
The Shared Parenting Council -CT
The Fatherhood Coalition -MA
NATIONAL CLASS ACTION SUIT - USA
On March 6, 2006 Judge Howard
Schienblum testified under
oath to the judicial committee
that I insisted on representing myself in
a case he refused to resolve for
2-1/2 years. Nothing could
be farther from the truth.
Transcripts submitted to the judicial
committee and in the judge's
file clearly show this judge removing
two of my defense attorneys each
time I demanded a jury trial
and after 2 years of being forced
to court. About June
of 2005, he ordered the court
reporter to shut off the recording
device and threatened me with
retaliation if I made any
more allegations against court
officials. He had just removed
my second defense attorney after
a private meeting in his chambers
and I provided transcripts
of the prosecutor lying to the
judge, denying calls made by judge
Kaplan of Rockville to prosecute
In fact, it is typical for
this judge to threaten and intimidate defendants
to plead guilty without representation
or face jail and other threats.
(See "Federal Judge Admonishes
Scheinblum" , Journal
Inquirer, Nov. 2004.) I
objected and but was denied my
constitutional right to be heard.
I filed a motion to reconsider
but was denied without review.
I filed an appeal but was dismissed
for lack of final judgment.
I requested protection under the
ADA laws and was ordered to file
a brief in one week. He
denied the brief without review.
to the judicial committee that
he has denied every motion I filed
as frivolous omitted that
these were motions for a speedy
trial, for a jury trial, motions
to transfer my case, motions for
Bill of Particulars as to what
I was charged for and what facts;
Motion for recusal, motions to
dismiss...etc. Every motion
was denied without review, without
turning a page, as fast as I handed
it to the court.
judge, hold him accountable for
false testimony to the judicial
committee and for abusing thousands
of defendants in Enfield