Appeals Court Affirms Life Sentence for Drug Conspiracy Leader
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 13, 2013|
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the sentence of life imprisonment imposed by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik on Charles Sechler for his participation in an eight-year drug trafficking conspiracy that was responsible for distributing large amounts of methamphetamine and marijuana in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania between 1995 and 2003.
According to United States Attorney Peter J. Smith, Sechler, age 44, who resided in the Montoursville area during the time of the conspiracy, was convicted by a jury after a six-day trial in July 2007. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all 11 drug-related charges against Sechler and his co-defendant Steven Fausnaught. Fausnaught was sentenced to 24 years in prison, and his sentence was previously affirmed on appeal.
Sechler was indicted by a federal grand jury on August 12, 2003, as a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, Bloomsburg Police, the Columbia County Drug Task Force, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
After his conviction in the case, Sechler was released on bail and fled to Canada, was subsequently apprehended by Canadian authorities in cooperation with the U.S. Marshals Service, and then fought extradition by claiming he was a “political prisoner.” He was returned to the United States and sentenced on July 14, 2011.
In upholding the life sentence, the Third Circuit Court noted that Sechler was responsible for distributing at least 15 kilograms of methamphetamine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, possessed firearms in connection with the conspiracy, and was an organizer and leader of the multi-year drug trafficking operation. The court rejected Sechler’s argument that the sentence of life imprisonment violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, reasoning that the district court’s sentence was not “grossly disproportionate when balanced against the gravity of his offenses.”
Assistant United States Attorney Francis P. Sempa prosecuted the case and handled the appeal for the government.
U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Erie Police Department for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Melter.
Launched in February 2006, Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.