Michael Montalvo – LIFE without parole –

Michael MontalvoName: Michael Montalvo #87224-012
Marital Status: Single
Age: 74
Tried: Northern District of California
Will live: Phoenix, AZ
Charge: Non-violent 1980s drug conspiracy charged as Continuing criminal enterprise from 1983 to 1986
Sentence: After declining a 15 and 10 year offer to plead guilty, Michael was sentenced to mandatory life without parole as a `trial penalty` for exercising his Sixth Amendment Constitutional right to a jury trial and to confront witnesses testifying for lighter sentences.
Started sentence on day of arrest: May 19, 1987
Served: since arrest on May 19, 1987 (34 years as of May 19, 2021)
Priors: Minor drug offense
Prison Conduct: 30 years without incident. Model prisoner, completed over 100 BOP programs, (see Accomplishments)
Supporters: Family, friends, BOP supervisors, two Wardens, November Coalition, CAN-DO Foundation, The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Aleph Organization
Clemency Status: Filed July 25, 2014, CP14 submitted, denied by President Obama and resubmitted – currently pending C273549
Media: Michael Montalo, Vietnam Vet deserved Presidential clemency, CAN-DO Foundation says 

FCI Phoenix, 37910 N 45TH AVE

Michael with now BOP Director Michael Carvajal

Accomplishments: Michael has served over 33 years without any incident report. Model prisoner. Graduated from 100 BOP programs. Worked in the education department, where he received awards for tutoring and mentoring younger men and those with mental health issues. He also worked in the law library where he assisted others in filing motions.  Mike obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business as well as a law degree (Juris Doctor) while incarcerated.

Michael is a veteran of the Vietnam War era, and with 4.5 years good conduct credit has served the equivalent of about 38.5 years in prison time for a non-violent drug conspiracy alleged in the early 1980s.  Michael was offered 15 and 10 years to plead guilty, but he went to trial just as the `War on Drugs` became the 24/7 political topic of every politician running for an office.  For going to trial, the prosecutor demanded, and a visiting judge imposed, a mandatory life sentence for Michael despite the 15 and 10 year penalty value for the same offense before trial.

Over the past three decades, Congress and the public have come to recognize that the `War on Drugs` was a failure and the same offenses now receive more lenient sentences.

Michael has been a model prisoner since he was arrested. He completed over 100 Bureau of Prison Programs, earned three college degrees, received awards for tutoring prisoners, mentoring prisoners with mental health issues, and trained to assist suicidal prisoners.  For three decades, Michael has worked in the Education Department of the BOP teaching and tutoring classes for Microsoft Office Suite, legal research, personal finance courses, credit, banking, budgeting, real estate, and investing for prisoners getting ready for release and start a successful second chance.  Michael`s legal assistance to prisoners in the Law Library has helped many reduce their sentences, win clemency, and obtain compassionate release.

In 2014, Warden Michael D. Carvajal recommended Michael for compassionate release, which is rare.  However, a BOP regulations prevented the then-Warden and now-Director of the BOP from filing a motion for Michael`s release because the offense occurred prior to November 1, 1987 and was non-parolable, even though Michael was sentenced long after that date. The irony is that all offense sentence after that date are non-parolable.  November 1, 1987, is the date that the `old law` disparate sentence and parole system was abolished, and the `new law` Sentencing Guidelines were enacted. If Michael`s offense had occurred after that 1987 date, he would have been granted compassionate release from Warden`s Carvajal`s recommendation and the Director`s motion in 2014.  Since 1993, Michael has received nine letters of recommendation from his BOP supervisors who urged the sentencing court to give him a time-served sentence.

On November 20, 2020, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers with over 500,000 members, issued a news release about the NACDL`s `Trial Penalty Clemency Project` which they sent to the President and Pardon Attorney. In that news release, the NACDL asked the President to grant clemency for Michael, stating: `Michael is only incarcerated today because he went to trial.` When Michael did not take the offer to plead guilty to 15 years pretrial and 10 years mid-trial for this non-violent offense, he received a mandatory life sentence. If Michael`s case were governed by current laws, he would have been released years ago.  Unfortunately, the new sentencing guidelines regime was not made retroactive to old cases like Michael`s.

The United States Sentencing Guidelines were enacted to eliminate unwarranted disparities in sentences for similar offenders for the same offense, ensure fairness in sentences, and prevent sentences on the whim of a prosecutor or judge, or as a penalty for exercising a right to jury trial.

Michael has petitioned to president Biden for Clemency so that he may rejoin his family and see his grandchildren.  You can support Michael’s clemency by sending a letter of recommendation to CAN-DO Foundation – PO Box 6468, Malibu, CA 90264.

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