Donny Andrews: Friends rally Sunday in support of clemency for drug-war casualty
It's been a long, long 25 years since Donny Andrews, barely out of his teens, ended up behind bars for a string of burglaries he embarked upon to support his cocaine habit. But that quarter-century represents less than a third of the sentence heaped on Andrews, one of the harshest punishments of its kind meted out at the height of the lock-'em-up frenzy in the late 1980s.
You heard that right. Andrews is serving 81 years and a day for a series of nonviolent property and drug crimes. His earliest parole date is in 2025 -- a situation his family and supporters desperately want to change.
The 81-year sentence is more time than a homicidal estranged spouse gets for second-degree murder in this state. It's more than your average pedophile would receive for molesting a Cub Scout. It's more than four times the maximum for a fatal hit-and-run. Andrews did none of these things, yet he's seen killers, sex offenders and assorted scumbags walk into prison, do their time and walk out while he still sits there, watching the years tick away.
Timing and location are everything. Andrews managed to commit his burglaries (and one attempted robbery) during a period when hysteria over the war on drugs was at its peak. He had the poor judgment to burgle in places like Arapahoe County, famous for throwing the book at dope fiends (unless they happen to be the former county sheriff; see my explanation from last year on why Andrews is in prison and Pat Sullivan isn't). And he had the bad luck to be an erstwhile associate of Eugene Thompson, a burglar who killed two hostages, shot another and raped a woman before killing himself -- and helped to make Sullivan's rep as a tough lawman in the bargain.
Another booking photo of Donny Andrews.
Andrews had no involvement with that rampage, but the fact that he knew Thompson made it easier for prosecutors to push for stiff sentences regarding his burglaries and then call for them to be served consecutively, stacking the routine cases into an amazing 81 years. The sentencing schemes that allowed such a pile-on have since been modified or repealed, but Andrews is still stuck inside -- even though, as pointed out in our 2009 feature "The Quality of Mercy," his early release could save taxpayers around $750,000.
Andrews is no longer an addict. He's no longer a shortsighted twenty year old. His prison record is exemplary. Previously denied clemency -- a special reprieve that a sitting governor can grant to correct sentencing disparities but rarely does -- he's now reapplying, his appeal package stuffed with letters from family and friends urging his release.
Continue for more about the rally this weekend.