NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Six years into a 13-year sentence for possessing enough marijuana to fill two joints, Bernard Noble is getting his term cut.
The New Orleans Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2gO7Qgj ) Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office agreed Monday to reduce Noble’s prison term to eight years.
Noble, a 50-year-old father of seven, became a national poster child for marijuana sentencing reform after Cannizzaro’s office invoked the state’s habitual-offender law against him and the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to let two judges veer below it.
The new sentence is in line with a reduction in marijuana penalties approved by the Legislature last year.
Noble will remain in prison for now. As a habitual offender, he must serve the bulk of what remains of his new sentence, though he becomes immediately eligible for parole.
“I’ve always had faith for the law,” Noble told Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich. “I’ve never been a person that has flagrant disregard toward the law.”
“Congratulations to you, sir,” Zibilich said after he endorsed the deal. “I think you have a debt of gratitude to the state.”
The old law, under which Noble was convicted, set a maximum of 20 years for repeat marijuana convictions, with that figure doubling under the habitual-offender law.
Just what prompted the change of heart from Cannizzaro, whose office deploys the repeat-offender law more than any other district attorney’s office in the state, was unclear.
For years, Noble argued that the 13-year prison term was excessive punishment, for himself and the family members he supported.
Negotiations with Cannizzaro’s office to lower Noble’s sentence had been going on for months.
“It’s been a very long road,” said his attorney, Jee Park. “I’m really happy for Mr. Bernard’s family that they can be reunited with him sooner. This six years he’s done has been really hard. It’s the first time he’s spent any time in prison, and to do that for two joints has been hard on him.”
Zibilich said the reduction in maximum sentences for marijuana possession in Louisiana is due “in large part to this case.”
“What’s important here is the interest of justice, and the fact the District Attorney’s Office is joining in this motion is possibly a left-handed way of saying this penal provision is too harsh,” Zibilich said.
“We wish to welcome you back into society.”
Noble’s eldest daughter, Brion Foucha, was 17 when her father was arrested and now is 24. Smiling after the hearing Monday, Foucha said she’s been told that Noble could be sent to a work-release program in 10 months.
“This is what we wanted to happen,” she said.
Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com
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