Florida Keys

He’s sick and the last in his case still in prison, but judge denies drug smuggler’s release

Coast Guard offloads 3,500 pounds of cocaine in Miami

U.S. Coast Guard offloads more than 3,500 pounds of cocaine and 50 pounds of marijuana at Base Miami Beach, Tuesday, Oct, 16, 2018. The drugs were seized from suspected smuggling vessels off the coasts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Aruba.
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U.S. Coast Guard offloads more than 3,500 pounds of cocaine and 50 pounds of marijuana at Base Miami Beach, Tuesday, Oct, 16, 2018. The drugs were seized from suspected smuggling vessels off the coasts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Aruba.

A Florida Keys man arrested and convicted in the late ‘80s for his role in a cocaine smuggling operation that trafficked thousands of pounds of powder into the United States may be spending the rest of his life in federal prison.

A judge in Alabama Monday denied Richard “Dickie” Lynn’s “compassionate release” motion, which was filed this year on the grounds that he suffers from a series of health ailments, including heart and kidney disease. At the time he filed the motion in March, he was about to turn 65, one of the criteria for compassionate release.

His birthday was this week, but Judge William H. Steele denied the motion Monday, stating that although Lynn has documented health issues, he has not demonstrated that his “ability to care for himself in a prison setting has been substantially diminished by them.”

Lynn’s petition for an early release had strong support among those living in his hometown, including a city councilman who was once a Drug Enforcement Administration agent paid to put people like Lynn behind bars.

Ken Davis, the councilman and retired DEA agent, had hoped Steele would grant the motion on Lynn’s birthday, despite objections from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.

“Like everybody else following the case, I’m disappointed,” Davis said Friday.

Lynn was busted and convicted in 1989 for trafficking and is serving multiple life sentences because he escaped from a temporary holding facility soon after his conviction. He was arrested in Mississippi six months later while putting together another drug shipment.

Following his second arrest, a judge sentenced him to seven life terms, the punishment recommended by prosecutors.

Of the 22 people in his organization, Lynn is the only one left in prison. All the others, except one man prosecutors believed to be the group’s enforcer, got 10 years. The accused enforcer received 17. Lynn’s been in 30 years and could remain at Coleman federal penitentiary in Sumter County for the rest of his life.

Soon after he was arrested, Lynn voluntarily cooperated with federal law enforcement in Mississippi on several large drug cases. Intelligence he provided helped with several convictions, Davis said, and agents and prosecutors in Mississippi argued to their counterparts in Alabama that he deserved time off his sentence in return.

Alabama prosecutors, however, haven’t budged from their stance in 30 years that Lynn should live out his days in prison.

“His disregard for the Court, his disrespect for the rule of law, and his disruption of the administration of justice in his case should yield the denial of this motion,” prosecutors wrote in a July 1 filing.

In an appeal of Steele’s decision filed this week, Lynn states that he has “an infraction-free prison record” and is serving a “life sentence that would not be imposed on him today if convicted for the very same offenses.”

Lynn also said that prosecutors and Steele underestimate the seriousness of his health conditions.

“By any measure, Richard Lynn has paid for the mistakes of his youth,” Lynn wrote, using the third person because he is representing himself.

In the meantime, Lynn’s supporters are looking to President Donald Trump for help. In November, the five-member Islamorada Village Council, on which Davis serves, voted to send the White House a letter urging clemency for Lynn.

“We are now left with praying the president will release him,” Kim Ferguson, who runs the “Release Dickie Lynn” Facebook page, wrote Monday.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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