Objecting to a presentence report and a judge’s tentative findings, Mark A. Hopson said he should be sentenced only to 20 years in prison for being a “major figure” in the drug trade in Sharon and Farrell.

Hopson, 35, formerly of Sharon, pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine and conspiracy to launder money. His oft-delayed sentencing is set for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

In the federal system, a person’s sentence is affected by the applicable law, the person’s criminal history, the circumstance of the crime and other factors. Each factor is given a numerical score and the total tally corresponds to a sentencing range that is deemed advisable in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Joy Flowers Conti, Pittsburgh, determined Hopson faces a minimum sentence of 20 years, and sentencing factors indicate a sentence of 30 years to life is appropriate.

Hopson’s attorney, R. Damien Schorr, Pittsburgh, in a court document filed Thursday objected to Judge Conti’s determination that Hopson is a career criminal.

According to Judge Conti, Hopson warrants career-offender status because was older than 18 when he committed the crimes in this case, the crimes involved drugs and are felonies, and he has two prior drug felony convictions, in 1991 and 1992 in Mercer County.

Schorr objected to the 1992 conviction being considered in the calculations. He said no drug quantity was determined in that case, but the price of the crack was only $100.

“It is more reflective of a street level criminal than a criminal mastermind,” Schorr said. “Career-offender status severely overstates the seriousness of Mr. Hopson’s criminal history.”

Schorr added the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pittsburgh, asked for a sentence enhancement based only on one prior conviction, but the presentence report and the judge included two.

Two summary convictions for unspecified crimes should not have been included in calculations because details of them were not included in the presentence report, Schorr said.

Hopson is facing a second indictment on a charge of witness tampering for allegedly beating a witness who was to testify against him in the drug case. That case is being accepted as fact in the sentencing calculations for the drug case, said Schorr, adding that details of the incident in the presentence report differ from those in another report.

“The facts as reported in the Field Case Report support a robbery more than any attempt at witness intimidation,” Schorr said.

Hopson “is entitled to the presumption of innocence on this point” while the presentence report “treats his guilt as an established fact,” Schorr said.

Another issue of dispute is the amount of drugs involved in Hopson’s crimes. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the presentence report said Hopson is “responsible” for 1.5 kilograms — 3.3 pounds — of cocaine, while the judge made reference to “5 kilograms” — 11 pounds — “or more.” Schorr said the sides never stipulated to an amount, and the U.S. Attorney’s office said at his plea hearing that undercover agents had bought 51 grams — 1.8 ounces — from a lieutenant of Hopson’s, upon the direction of Hopson.

While Hopson was the target of Operation Idaho, a crackdown on the crack trade in Sharon and Farrell that netted more than 15 convictions in Pennsylvania and a handful in Ohio, Schorr tried to downplay his overall effect on illegal drug sales.

“He was a major figure in the drug culture in the Sharon/Farrell, Pa., area,” Schorr said. “The reality of the matter is, however, that Mr. Hopson has probably been forgotten in the drug culture in which he circulated. The addicts that Mr. Hopson sold to are still on the streets and other dealers have undoubtedly replaced him.”

A 20-year sentence will humble Hopson, Schorr said.

“In previous interactions with law enforcement, Mr. Hopson claimed that he was not just a ‘player,’ he was ‘the player’ and was untouchable,” Schorr said. “Twenty years tells Mr. Hopson that he is not ‘the player’ and that he has definitely been touched.”

Hopson will receive credit for the year he has spent in jail awaiting resolution to his cases, and could be awarded a reduction down the road for “good time” in prison, Schorr said. A 20-year sentence is likely to mean he will spend 15 years from the day of his sentencing, making him age 50 when he is released.

Schorr said statistics show people of that age are unlikely to commit more crimes, and Hopson will have been sufficiently segregated from the drug trade to render him incapable of returning to it.

“At 50, Mr. Hopson will not have the strength, energy or ruthlessness to compete in the drug trade,” Schorr said. “His friends will be either dead, in jail themselves, or have moved on in life. His assets will be gone. He will have no base from which to start up operations. A twenty-year sentence puts Mr. Hopson out of business for good.”

Keeping Hopson in prison will leave the Bureau of Prisons with “an aged inmate plagued with the health problems of the elderly,” Schorr said.

“Sentencing Mr. Hopson to thirty years or to life is simply overkill,” Schorr said.

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