Tuesday, December 22, 1998

Modafferi gets 3 months
for distributing drugs

By Crystal Kua


A year ago, Gary Modafferi had a house, car and a thriving law practice.

Today, Modafferi has lost his material possessions and his career, but in the process, gained prison time and a realization that his addiction to drugs was his downfall.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday sentenced the one-time city deputy prosecutor and criminal defense attorney to three months in prison for distributing crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," from his apartment between August 1996 and December 1997.

After Modafferi completes his prison term, he will be placed on six months home detention with electronic monitoring followed by three years of supervised release.

Ezra also ordered Modafferi to pay a $10,000 fine and complete 500 hours of community service.

With the sentence came a stern lecture from Ezra, who expressed disappointment and sadness that someone with Modafferi's talent and background was before him for sentencing in a drug case.

"You're not a bad person, Gary. You never really were. You were an individual who did some bad things," Ezra said.

The FBI began investigating Modafferi in September 1997 after agents heard that he had used the drug with a woman.

Investigators found ice in the kitchen of the former head of the state's largest narcotics prosecution unit and one-time U.S. Justice Department intern. The government said Modafferi distributed the drug to his girlfriend and another person, and smoked it.

Modafferi was accused of giving an informant less than a gram of the drug. The government said it had videotapes to prove it.

Modafferi pleaded guilty in September to one count of distributing crystal methamphetamine. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges against him.

Modafferi had faced a sentence of six to 12 months behind bars. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck argued for six months while defense lawyer Michael Green asked for probation.

Modafferi, saying he was sorry, told Ezra he doesn't know how the addiction began but that his transition from prosecutor to a criminal defense lawyer took a toll on him.

Ezra told Modafferi that getting too close to the criminal element can be compared to being in a spider's web.

"You have to be concerned that you might get bitten. Mr. Modafferi was in the web."

Modafferi said he wants to make a positive impact once he leaves prison, and he said he has a job offer waiting for him in San Francisco.

Green said the worst thing that could happen to Modafferi is the lost ability to practice law, which is what he wanted to do ever since he was 12 or 13 years old.

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