A federal judge has refused to reduce the life sentence of a notorious drug kingpin in Roxbury, saying his violent history and a book he published in 2013 convinced her that he remains a danger to the community.
In her decision Wednesday, US District Chief Judge Patti B. Saris acknowledged that Darryl Whiting, who went by the nickname "God," was eligible for a reduced sentence based on new sentencing guidelines created in 2014 that have led to tens of thousands of prisoners being released early.
Whiting, 61, was eligible to have his sentence trimmed to 30 years, making him eligible for release next year.
But Saris said the life sentence Whiting received in 1991 for running a criminal cocaine enterprise out of the Orchard Gardens housing project in Boston is still appropriate.
"He was the organizer and leader of a continuing criminal enterprise that involved guns and regular beatings," Saris wrote in a five-page decision. "Accordingly, I find that this release would pose a great threat to public safety and the safety of those who cooperated with the government in his prosecution."
Whiting's lawyer, James J. Coviello, of Boston, said he was disappointed by Saris's decision and will appeal.
Whiting's case, which attracted support from his family and concern from community members, starkly illustrates the balancing act in applying new sentencing guidelines meant to reduce punishments for low-level drug offenders while still punishing violent dealers.
"This case definitely shows that the courts are not merely reducing previously imposed drug sentences across the board due to the change in federal law a few years back," said Paul Kelly, an attorney with Jackson Lewis and a former US attorney who prosecuted Whiting.
He said Saris's decision shows that judges "take very seriously the responsibility to weigh the specific circumstances of the person involved in resentencing."
The US Sentencing Commission, which imposed the 2014 reforms retroactively, estimated that roughly 46,000 prisoners would be eligible to petition to have their sentences reduced.
Saris is chairwoman of the Sentencing Commission and led the efforts for the reforms.
The sentencing changes were only recommendations, however, and judges review several factors to determine whether to reduce a sentence: Whether the defendant is eligible; whether the defendant would pose a threat if released; and the defendant's behavior while incarcerated.
Nationally, judges have rejected 6,821 of the 27,824 petitions that had been filed as of Nov. 30, 2015, according to US Sentencing Commission data. In Massachusetts, 69 of 150 petitions have been rejected, or 46 percent.
In most cases, according to the Sentencing Commission, judges rejected petitions after finding that the defendant was not eligible.
Judges cited protection of the public in denying 3 percent of the cases.
Federal prosecutors initially supported Whiting's request for a reduced sentence, as part of the office's general support of shorter sentences for drug crimes, but later withdrew support after learning that Whiting had written a novel that glorified his life of crime.
The novel, "Takin' It to Another Level," published in 2013, was purportedly a fictional account about a man who is released from prison after a change in law and violently retaliates against those who testified against him.
The character is named Darryl Whiting, and some of the victims in the book have the same names as witnesses who testified against Whiting in real life.
Saris said she found the book "troubling."
"The defendant uses his own name and his family members' names, describes his own offense, and uses real cooperators' names, who are murdered and tortured as a result of that cooperation," the judge said. "The use of real names, places, and events in the book convinces me that the defendant poses an ongoing threat to the community."
Coviello had argued that Whiting's book was only fiction and that it should not have factored into the judge's decision. He said Whiting had a commendable record in prison, and noted that prosecutors supported his release until they learned about the book.
Community members who recalled Whiting's terror over the Roxbury community said the decision to keep Whiting behind bars was the right one.
"The residents of Orchard Gardens can breathe a collective sigh of relief," said Boston Housing Authority Administrator William McGonagle. "This time our justice system worked"
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.