Chad Marks – 40 years – won his compassionate release!

We are elated that Chad Marks sentence was reduced to 20 years and his new outdate is June 4, 2020, but his prosecutor filed an emergency stay to the circuit court to keep Chad in prison.  More good news, a 3 judge panel lifted the stay and Chad can come home!!! We pray the prosecutor will drop the appeal which is frivolous!  The men’s facility in Lexington is on fire with the virus which is spreading out of control.
Chad’s Sentencing Judge, David Larimer supports Chad’s clemency. Read  Judge Larimer Letter & Clemency Petition
Chad was included in an Op Ed written by Yale Law Students in Mic, on Dec 30, 2016, which identified numerous worthy applicants who meet all the criteria of Clemency Project 2014.  Chad was quoted in Vice News.

Sign Chad’s petition here: 

Chad Marks #12010055
DOB: August 17, 1978
Race: Caucasian
Age: 41
Children: No Children
Raised: New York
State indicted: Rochester, NY
Will Live: Rochester, NY
Charges: 18 U.S.C.& 841 Conspiracy to Distribute 50 grams or more of Cocaine Base. 2 18 U.S.C. & 924 (c) offenses.
Sentence: 40 years
Served: 17 Years
Started sentence on: February 4, 2003
Priors: Regrettably, yes assault at 16
Prison Conduct: Have completed over 78 programs. Created a reentry program for the prison. Have Memos from staff, and a letter from sentencing judge praising my conduct in prison. One shot in over 6 years.
Clemency Status: Denied by Obama – refiled – currently pending clemency case #C277016
Supporters: CAN-DO Foundation, Family/Friends, Chad’s Sentencing Judge David Latimer.
Institution:  FMC Lexington

Just some of the men Chad has mentored in prison

Accomplishments: Since Chad’s incarceration he has completed over seventy rehabilitative life skills training programs. He teaches G.E.D. classes, and every one of his students have earned their G.E.D. He also facilitates Leadership classes as well as nationally recognized (AVP) Alternative To Violence Project courses. He has also designed and created reentry courses for the inmates at his prison where he has received written praise for that program from staff, and inmates. Chad has also reached out to his community with a program he designed (STEM), Stimulate Train Educate Mentor. The program is designed at targeting at risk youth, and saving them from life imprisonment, and premature death.

According to Chad:

My biggest issue is that I had a plea offer and told my attorney to accept it and he failed to do so and when he did that they stacked some 924(c)’s on me. My attorney admitted that he failed to tell the Government we had a deal. At least 6 times in the record. I would be home if he had taken the deal offered to me by the prosecutor.

“For the amount of people who are in prison that did not do it, there’s probably an equal amount of those out of prison who did,” Anonymous. While this may be true, there is an overlooked third group who are in prison, admit their guilt, but simply desire to have a sentence that is fair based upon the law and proportionate to their crime. Chad Marks is part of this third group. Marks has been imprisoned for over 13 and a half years on drug related charges. He currently faces over 26 more years of his total sentence of 40 years.

At the age of 24 Chad was sentenced to a 40 year federal mandatory minimum sentence. The driving force behind that sentence was a result of the “stacking provisions” of 18 U.S.C. & 924 (c). The prosecution at one point offered a plea deal that could have resulted in a ten year term if he would admit his guilt, cooperate with the government against others, and go off to prison. Marks proceeded to trial, was convicted, and the sentenced to the 40 year term.

Chad’s latest article:

Chad has great support by many advocates who believe Chad is worthy of a second chance.

By: Chad Marks

Alexander Hamilton described clemency in the Federalist Papers as existing for reasons of “humanity and good policy,” and to provide “easy access to exceptions.” This demonstrates both a commitment to the ancient value of mercy, as well as the idea that clemency serve as a counter-balance to guard against overzealousness and mistakes made by other branches of government. It checks the legislative branch because of the inevitable instinct of legislators, propelled by political impulse, to create harsh sentences against unpopular criminals that would prove disproportionate in particular cases.

Clemency also permits the President to check federal prosecutors who go too far in their charging decisions and creates a tool to ensure that laws do not extend to cases where it would be unjust.

I committed drug related crimes, and certainly deserved to be punished. There are no excuses for the selfish decisions that I made that resulted in me losing my freedom.

Law makers have made clear that federal sentencing courts must impose a sentence that is sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing. So what is that? Common sense would say that when an offender shows that he has changed his life and has rehabilitated that that is enough. Once rehabilitation has been achieved there is nothing left to be gained but for punishment. In my case there is nothing left to be achieved after nearly 16 years in prison but punishment.

Early in my case the Government made plea offers that could have resulted in as low as (10) ten years if only I would cooperate with prosecutors. I had nothing of value to offer, and in the end my case went to trial. There were other offers as well that could have resulted in a likely sentence of 12 1/2 years. I proceeded to a trial that I did not want to go to, and I made this clear to the judge before the trial started. The government pushed for a trial, and the end result was a 40 year mandatory minimum sentence at the age of 24 years old.

Entering prison at a young age with such a drastic sentence hurt deeply. Life for me seemed bleak but I knew that this could not be it for me. There was only one choice for me – to educate myself. Thousands of tax dollars went into rehabilitating me over the last 16 years. As of now I completed over 90 rehabilitative programs, earned a college degree, and have worked hard to help other people. One of the things I concentrated on was learning the law, and with those skills I have helped many others earn a second chance at freedom.

All of my rehabilitation, and all of the tax dollars that have been spent on doing this may all be for naught if I remain imprisoned for another 20 more years. The one person who knows my case better than anyone else, my sentencing judge, nor any other judge has the authority to let me out of prison based on my rehabilitation. 18 U.S.C. 3553 (a) a law that calls for a sentence sufficient but not greater than necessary can never be implemented once I was already sentenced. It is almost as if I have the mark of Cain. Courts, politicians, law makers, and many more talk about offenders who have paying their debt to society. In the criminal justice system such debt being paid has no resemblance to bankruptcy court. Stunningly when one has been rehabilitated there is no system in place to restore a person back to society when that debt has been paid. Or is there? The only real way is through clemency.

For me I never wanted a second chance to reclaim my life for free. I wanted to earn my second chance, and I sought out on that path. It was easy to figure out that if I worked hard for my freedom I would appreciate it if President Trump gave it back to me. Some might say those are conservative values. Jesus said if we don’t work we don’t eat. So I had no choice but to work for it. No more tax dollars need to be wasted on incarcerating me, because the transformation has been accomplished.

My hope is that President Trump would find me worthy of his mercy. I am no longer a threat to public safety because I have learned to appreciate what the framers found so important life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My freedom is not something that I would ever squander. All paths in life for good, or evil begin with one small step. When we choose the path we choose our destination. My steps have changed, and so has my destination.

Whether it be mercy, grace, or both that I am requesting I can assure the President that I will not let him down. My hope is for a fair review not based on only my past, but also on my efforts while in prison to show that I am a man worthy of his mercy, and grace.

His codefendants who committed the same crimes as him pled guilty and were sentenced to the following;
Richard Ross -7 years
Tommy Hard – 12 years months
Nathan Brown (lead defendant) 15 years 1 month.

Adding each of their sentences together do not equal the one handed down to Chad. In fact of each of those men have since been released from prison, while Marks is still behind bars. The difference between the sentencing outcome if a defendant accepts the governments offer of a plea bargain, and the outcome if he insists on is right to trial by jury is sometimes referred to as the “trial penalty”. Marks likely would have been released in 2011 under the plea agreement offered by the Government. Now his projected release date is March 21, 2038. Thus, his trial penalty – 30 more years in prison. To put his sentence in context consider that in the fiscal year 2013, the average sentence for defendants convicted of robbery in federal court was 77 months; the median sentence was 63 months. The average sentence for murder in federal court was 268 months; the median sentence was 240 months. Chad was sentenced to 480 months for his non-violent drug related offenses. In the words of New York Federal Judge John Gleeson in another 924 (c) stacking case…”the defendant would have fared better had he committed murder.” In the words of another now retired Federal Judge Paul Cassell in a 18 U.S.C. 924 (c) stacking case where he was required to hand down a 55 year mandatory term to Weldon Angelos he stated, “It was the most unjust lengthy sentence that I had to hand down.” Weldon Angelos is now free.

The sentence in Marks case at the time of trial exceeded the minimum required for an individual convicted of high jacking a plane, detonating a bomb intended to kill bystanders, and the exploitation of a child for pornography.

Chad has taken responsibility for his actions and errors in judgment, he has also made extraordinary strides in repairing and improving his life. Chad’s only hope at a second chance to reclaim his life is by an order from President Trump granting him mercy. President Trump has made it clear that this nation is a nation of second chances.  President Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” The application of power without justice is brutal, and there really is nothing democratic about brutality.


On February 4, 2003 I was arrested in Rochester New York and charged with a non-violent drug conspiracy. That charge came with a mandatory minimum of 10 yrs. As the case moved along prosecutors made a plea offer that could have resulted in a sentence as low as 10 yrs. I instructed my then retained attorney to accept that offer, and he failed to tell the prosecutor that we had a deal. My attorney admitted that he made mistakes that directly resulted in me being sentenced to 40 yrs, but I could no relief. The prosecutor and my attorney disliked each other from a previous case. Shortly after my attorney failed to tell the prosecutors we had a deal the prosecutor brought another indictment with 16 more charges a year later. That new indictment changed my mandatory minimum from 10 yrs to 40 yrs.

When that happened both my family and my self were in shock. I thought to myself if 10 yrs was sufficient for my crimes just days ago, How could 40 yrs now be my mandatory minimum? I had no choice but to go to trial. As my trial started I told the the Judge that I was scared and did not want to go to trial. The judge indicated that his hands were tied because the prosecutor controlled the mandatory minimum of 40 yrs with the way he brought the charges. In the end I was sentenced to the mandatory 40 years..

I had only been alive 27 yrs at that point and could not imagine what 40 years. in prison was going to be like. I filed a pro-se motion pointing out that my attorney made a mistake by not telling the prosecutor that we had a deal. I spoke out in court at various times. On April 5, 2007 I told the judge on the record that I told my attorney to accept the offer that could have resulted in a 10 yr term, and that there was a 20 year offer that he never relayed to me. Once I said that the Judge admonished me to be quiet.

The Court: Mr. Marks —

Mr. Marks: This is important you allow me to put on the record that Mr. Thompson confirm it. If I’m not telling the truth he can speak up now and say I’m lying to you.

The Court: Its not important at this point.

Mr. Marks: I think it relates to ineffective assistance of counsel I think… I don’t see how Mr. Thompson can represent me if he didn’t tell me about a 20 year plea. If he told me I’d never be charged with guns, he’s going to confirm it on the record. You won’t let him do that today…

Mr. Thompson: (my then attorney) Well he does I think there’s a conflict and i think you know, I can’t imagine that this is as close of an issue. I think its clear he needs other counsel to represent him from this point forward… I think he’s clearly expressed his feelings Judge. i concur in those feelings. You know I would have representations to make relative to you know the allegations he’s made, and I would be compelled to make those.

Mr. Marks: Are they true, Mr. Thompson?

Mr. Thompson: As best as I can recall.

For years this exchange has haunted me because it is clearly an admission by my counsel in no uncertain terms that my allegations were true “As best as he could recall.” This is only one portion that I instructed my attorney to accept the plea but he failed to do so.

From the beginning of the case I wanted to accept responsibility, and receive a sentence that was sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing.

In one letter that my attorney turned over to the government when I won a hearing stated:

I just want to start at 35 or be able to make it there, hopefully (AUSA Kelly) will do it. IF NOT WE PLEAD and maybe the new D.A. will budge. Please have your secretary contact my wife with the court date and please let me know so that I can have my family present .”

I just told my attorney if the prosecutor would not budge than “WE PLEAD GUILTY.” The prosecutor testified that he told my attorney he was not budging yet my attorney did not tell him we had a deal. There were more letters turned over to the prosecution that show I wanted to plead guilty and not go to trial.

January 3, 2004: “You have told me two weeks ago on the phone that we could plead guilty to the drugs and challenge the enhancement’s I am open for that.”

August 1, 2003 : “I’m just in hopes I don’t get railroaded and forced into a trial.”

November 20, 2003 “I am preparing a sentencing memo to help assist you in anyway anticipating a plea.”

February 22, 2004 “…if am going to get screwed over, it might as well be now not a year from now…If you get me in the right criminal history category 3…then lets plead guilty.”

September 26, 2005: “If you cant win these gun counts or I don’t have a chance in France I have to plead out. I cant die in here man!

May 3, 2006: “I don’t want to got to trial! not like this!”

Each of these letters makes it crystal clear that I intended to end my case with a guilty plea, not a trial. My attorney never did what I asked him to do, and he never responded to any of my letters.

On June 7, 2006 my attorney filed a motion in which he admitted “defendant indicated that he wished to enter a plea agreement.” He added, “In fact my conversations with AUSA Kelly focused largely on fine – tuning the provisions of the proposed plea agreements, with the understanding that defendant would enter into either a more or less favorable agreement, but would enter a plea nonetheless.”

In 2010 the Second Circuit took my pro-se 2241 motion and converted it to a Rule 33 and remanded my case for a hearing on my ineffective assistance of counsel claim. At that hearing my new attorney Jillian Harrington asked Donald Thompson,

Did you ever tell (AUSA) Kelly that Mr. Marks wanted to enter into one of those plea agreements? He responded, “Well in a sort of qualified way I remember having conversations along the lines of, in sum and substance of, you know, this is a pretty good agreement but how about this or how about that? Lets talk further.

First, I did not tell my attorney to accept the plea in a “sort of qualified way.” Whatever that was supposed to mean has left me perplexed . i specifically told him to accept the offer and he failed to do so. Secondly, these conversations would not have taken place had I not told my attorney that I wanted the deal. My January 2004 letter “If not we plead” was direct there was nothing equivocal about it – there was not “in a sort of qualified way.” It was an out right instruction to Donald Thompson to take the plea deal that was being offered by the Government, and that is what my attorney should have done. At this same hearing he was asked, Did Mr. Marks ever refuse any of the plea offers that were made? Mr. Thompson responded that I never refused any of the offers made by the prosecutors. If I never refused them what did I do?

Had my attorney told prosecutors we had a deal I likely would have been sentenced to 12 and a half years the same as Co-defendant Tommy Hardy. My release would have likely been in 2013. I make no excuses for the irrational, and irresponsible decisions that I made nearly 16 years ago to sell drugs. I am guilty, and I deserved to go to prison, but not 40 years. Even the prosecutors made this clear when they offered a plea that could have been as low as 10 years, and then 20 years. How then is 40 years justified? What happened in my case is an injustice.

In reality my sentence is death by incarceration. My only hope is clemency through President Trump. I am prayerful he will find me worthy of that second chance I seek.

Amy Ralston Povah is a clemency recipient under President Clinton, an award winning filmmaker, and founder of the CAN-DO Foundation.