Sergeant Steven Santucci wasn’t just a steroid user. He was also a dirty and corrupt cop. Santucci didn’t just participate in an illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking enterprise. He was the leader and mastermind behind a conspiracy involving two underground steroid labs (UGLs) and at least 10 other people working under him. But it didn’t really matter to U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny.
The federal judge only sentenced Santucci to 16 months in federal prison after the Newtown Police Department sergeant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a Schedule III controlled substance (anabolic steroids) and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
The 16-month prison sentence was surprising given the fact that federal prosecutors had worked out a plea agreement with Santucci in which they agreed to recommend a sentence of 57 to 71 months in prison. Santucci could have theoretically faced up to 30 years in prison for his conviction on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. But as is customary with plea agreements, prosecutors are willing to accept a shorter sentence in exchange for a quick conviction.
But rarely does a federal judge issue a prison sentence so much lower that prosecutors’ recommendations. Instead of an almost 6 year prison sentence, Judge Chatigny thought Santucci only deserved a sentence of 1 year and 4 months.
Obviously, a federal judge who gives such a lenient sentence to a law enforcement officer is likely to be accused of giving special treatment to a public official whose life, as Santucci’s attorney noted, was “characterized by a high degree of public service.” Was this the case?
An alternative explanation is that Judge Chatigny isn’t a big fan on the war on steroids and thinks the sentences are not proportional to the crime. In support of this hypothesis, it seems that Chatigny sentenced several co-conspirators who acted as low-level dealers for Santucci’s steroid distribution organization to significantly-reduced sentences as well. Judge Chatigny allowed several to avoid jail entirely.
For example, Jason Chickos was only sentenced to 2 years probation. Mark Bertanza was sentenced to 3 years probation. And Michael Mase was sentenced to 3 years probation with the first three months served as home confinement.
The only co-conspirator who received a more severe sentence than Santucci was Frank Pecora. Pecora bought steroids from Santucci for commercial resale. However, Pecora’s drug dealing was not limited to steroids. Pecora was also a cocaine and oxycodone dealer as well. This earned him a 37-month prison sentence from Judge Chatigny.
So perhaps Judge Chatigny didn’t give Sergeant Santucci any special consideration just because he was a cop. Maybe Chatigny gives reduced sentences across the board to individuals convicted solely of steroid-related crimes. If this is the case, we need more judges like Chatigny who think the sentencing guidelines for steroid cases are bullshit.