Tuna in Can 25 Years / U.S.'s Longest Serving Marijuana Offender has 10 Years Added to Sentence

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Federal Inmate sues U.S. Parole Commission. Illegally held seven years past his Parole Eligibility date, Robert Platshorn Files suit against the U.S. Parole Commsion in the Washington D.C. District Court. Despite acknowledgements of Bureau of Prisons Staffers at Eglin Federal Prison Camp that Platshorn should have been released years ago, he remains incarcerated.

Dateline: Eglin Federal Prison Camp. Arrested in 1979, Robert Platshorn, a Miami auto dealer, was convicted in a highly publicized marijuana conspiracy. Dubbed by the prosecutor as the "Black Tuna", Platshorn was sentenced to 64 years in prison; consecutive terms of 31 years parolable and 33 years non-parolable. Despite being a first offender with no history of violence, the government cited "broad publicity" as good cause to ship the Tuna off to the Super-Max penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. Admitting that might have been a mistake, the Federal Bureau of Prisons eventually let Platshorn serve his term in medium and low security prisons. At age 61, seven years after his release date, he currently resides at the Federal work camp on Eglin Air Force base in Florida.

Platshorn is one of the few "old law" prisoners remaining in the Federal prison system who can be released on parole. Under the "old law" most offenders could be paroled after serving a maximum of ten years. But Platshorn's 33 year non-parolable sentence would have to be served before he could be released on his 64 year sentence. "Old law" prisoners can earn up to fifteen days a month "good time" so Platshorn would reach his parole eligibility in 1997 after serving eighteen years. As a first offender, his parole guidelines only called for him to serve 40 to 52 months in prison. It was very unlikely that his parole would be delayed past 1997. What was to happen is bizarre.

Parole was repealed in 1985. In late 1986 the parole commission was given 5 years to set a parole date for every "old law" inmate in Federal prison. 70,000 parole hearings took place within 60 months. Parole commission rules called for Platshorn to receive a "parole presumptive" to become effective when he became eligible for release from the 64 year sentence in 1997. "Old law" defines parole as "conditional supervised release to the community". Release is the objective of parole, either to the community or to another authority such as the INS for deportation. But not for Bobby Tuna!

In 1989, seeing that Platshorn had served more than the ten years required by statute and much more than the 40 to 52 months called for in the guidelines, the parole board saw "no reason to delay parole". Rather than follow the law and grant a "parole presumptive" for a time when Platshorn would be eligible to leave prison, they mistakenly paroled him from his parolable to his non-parolable term, not on the 64 year aggregate sentence as required by law. Now after serving over ten years, he would have to start serving the required 18 years all over again. Already paroled, he would have to serve 28 years in prison instead of the eighteen years the law required. Platshorn is suing the Federal court in the District of Columbia to compel the parole commission to follow its own rules. To void the early parole and reissue a parole notice for the day he was actually eligible for parole, 1997, seven years ago.

Washington attorney Peter Buscemi, of prestigious Morgan, Lewis, & Bokius, acting pro Bono, tried unsuccessfully to get Platshorn a hearing on this issue. Buscemi is considered a rare expert in the arcana of parole law. He was highly praised by justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, for his "total aggregation" system, which clarified and simplified computing parole dates for the parolable and non-parolable terms. Both the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Parole Commission were ordered to adopt "total aggregation" in the 1980's.

The authorities at Eglin acknowledged that Platshorn should have been released on his existing parole years ago. They claim that the fault lies with the parole board, and have been told by regional office not to intervene. Warden Donald Baunecht, who has known Platshorn since his arrest in 1979, was surprised to find him still incarcerated after 25 years. The warden knows of no other inmate ever paroled from one Federal sentence to another.

Pensacola attorney Mary Ann Patti met with Eglin staffer Raymond Stickler and was able to confirm that the staff at eglin are aware that Platshorn should have been released on his parole years ago.

Contacts:

Peter Buscemi, Morgan, Lewis, & Bokius, Washington D.C. (202) 739-5190

Attorney Mary Ann Patti, Pennsacola, Fl.

(850) 437-3700

Attorney Arthur Tifford, Miami, Fl. (305) 545-7823

Raymond Stickler, Eglin Staff Counselor,

(850) 882-8522 Fax (850) 729-8621

To arrange an interview with Robert Platshorn, prisoner 00603-004, contact the warden's office at F.P.C. Eglin (850) 882-8522

For Further Information contact

Matthew Platshorn (Son) (775) 741 8066 or mplatshorn@msn.com

You can write directly to     

Robert Platshorn 00603-004

Eglin Federal Prison Camp

P.O. Box 600

Eglin AFB, FL 32542-7606

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Matthew Platshorn

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