The life-imprisonment term recommended for confessed drug trafficker Baktash Akasha is excessive, his lawyer argues in a letter to the US judge who will decide the Kenyanâs fate.
In a lengthy April 10 letter to presiding judge Victor Marrero, Mr George Goltzer depicts Baktash as the victim of an abusive upbringing who is in poor health and whose criminal deeds caused no harm to the US.
The attorney also seeks to situate Akashaâs crimes in the context of the Kenyan political culture.
He describes Kenya as a corrupt society that Akasha sought to exploit in order to protect himself from extradition to the US.
Baktash, 42, along with his younger brother Ibrahim, pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to import 99 kilogrammes of heroin to the United States.
The Akashas also said they systematically bribed Kenyan officials in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to thwart their transfer to the jurisdiction of a US federal court in New York.
Baktash is to be sentenced on April 19 while the outcome of Ibrahimâs case will not be determined until July.
Both brothers face possible terms ranging from 10 years to life, with the US court systemâs probation arm having recommended that Baktash spend the rest of his life in jail.
It is not known what length of sentence has been suggested for Ibrahim.
But the judge has discretion to impose whatever length of sentence he deems fit.
In urging a sentence close to the 10-year range for Baktash, Mr Goltzer says his client is plagued by âsevere health issues, which include depression with a history of suicide attempts, diabetes, asthma and morbid obesityâ.
Mr Goltzer also says as an âemotionally tortured young man,â Akasha suffered cruel and pervasive abuse at the hands of his fatherâs other families.
That mistreatment reportedly included sexual molestation by several of Baktashâs half-brothers.
The attorney argues that Baktash was in effect set up by a US undercover agent masquerading as a Colombian drug dealer.
âThis âAmerican agent provocateur’ offered to buy a large quantity of heroin from Akasha that would then be imported into the US,â Mr Goltzer writes.
Baktash had never trafficked heroin and was unable for months to find a source who could provide the drug, the attorney adds.
âNot even a gram of heroin actually reached the US as part of the admitted trafficking conspiracy,” Mr Goltzer says. “No Americans were victimised by Baktash’s unlawful activities.”
“Akasha therefore should not be placed in the same category as (convicted Mexican drug lord) El Chapo and the other heads of cartels responsible for scores of killings and the real importation of thousands of kilogrammes of narcotics into our society. He is not and has never been a sociopath incapable of redemption.â
âNothing said in this submission should be taken as our defence of crime or minimisation of [Akasha’s] transgressions,â Mr Goltzer notes. His client did act on the preferred opportunity to traffic heroin into the US and âaccepts responsibility for his crime,â the attorney states.
Similarly, Mr Goltzer acknowledges on Akasha’s behalf that bribes were paid to numerous Kenyan officials. None of them have been named in US court documents.
But Akasha âdid not corrupt already corrupted Kenyan officials who had, for a long time, held their hand out for payments in exchange for any service a government employee could corruptly provide,â the attorney adds.
âAnd this was true from the lowliest police officer to the highest judges, ministers and governors. It is well known that Kenya has long been one of the most corrupt countries in the world.â
Akasha’s father, Ibrahim, also took advantage of pervasive corruption in Kenya to enrich himself as a businessman, New York-based sentencing mitigation specialist Katherine O’Boyle wrote in her letter to Judge Marrero.
Based on interviews with Baktash, she also describes the elder Akasha as a âviolent alcoholic whom the entire family feared.â
Baktash was traumatised by his father’s murder in Amsterdam in 1998, Mr Goltzer tells Judge Marrero.
Baktash is also said to have been left deeply troubled by the suicide in 2011 of his second wife, Soad Baktash. Following her death, he began drinking heavily and taking multiple daily doses of illegal drugs, Ms O’Boyle recounts.
Baktash was also psychologically scarred by the âcruel and pervasive abuseâ that had been inflicted on his mother, Abdulrahman Musa, by the elder Akasha’s two other wives and the numerous children born of those unions, the US judge was told.
Because Baktash âcould find solace only at his fatherâs side learning the hashish business,â attorney Goltzer reasons, his client âstood no chance of avoiding the criminality into which he was born.â
Ms O’Boyle says in her letter to Judge Marrero that Baktash’s third wife, Najma Baktash, with whom he has four children, has described her family as now ânearly destitute.â The dependents Baktash has left behind in Kenya have no source of income and have been forced to sell their cars and some of their other belongings, Ms O’Boyle adds.
Attorney Goltzer has also submitted to the judge numerous letters of support for Baktash Akasha from family members, friends and associates in Kenya.
These letters show that Baktash is capable of demonstrating âgreat generosity and good deeds,â Mr Goltzer says.