Bray sentenced on crack, heroin convictions
An assistant district attorney and a defense attorney painted very different pictures of 38-year-old Gregory B. Bray, as the convicted drug dealer, bound by handcuffs and ankle restraints, sat in Dukes County Superior Court Friday morning.
Mr. Bray was in court awaiting sentencing by Associate Justice John C. Cratsley. A plea agreement had been reached under which Mr. Bray would admit in court that he distributed crack cocaine on Martha's Vineyard. He also faced a charge of heroin possession. In return, the state agreed to drop charges related to prescription drugs and press for a sentence of not more than four years in state prison. The plea agreement included a sentencing recommendation to Judge Cratsley of 2.5 to four years incarceration in a state facility.
In her remarks to the court, Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard said that Mr. Bray was previously convicted six separate times on drug charges, and his criminal record also included assault charges.
"At what point," asked Ms. Marshard, in her sentencing recommendation to the judge, "does the court say, the community say, enough is enough. This man is preying on society."
Defense attorney David Nagle focused on Mr. Bray's family, including his one-year-old son. He talked about the hold drugs had over Mr. Bray's life, and how he used his time awaiting trial at the Dukes County House of Corrections to develop jobs skills.
"He has been a model prisoner," said Mr. Nagle. "He has availed himself of every program available to him." He described Mr. Bray as friendly and likeable, someone who never caused trouble at the jail.
The latest in a long history of court appearances for Mr. Bray stems from an arrest last winter following a month-long investigation by the members of the Martha's Vineyard Drug Task Force, Oak Bluffs Police, and State Police. On February 22, 2007, the officers executed a search warrant at the house at 56 Summit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, where Mr. Bray was living with his girlfriend, Laurel Maciel. According to the police report, the officers found crack cocaine, heroin, and several prescription narcotics, with a street value of $2,800, in the home. They also found $580 in cash.
Police arrested Mr. Bray and Ms. Maciel. Both suspects were indicted and arraigned in Dukes County Superior Court. Ms. Maciel, who had no prior criminal convictions, was released on bail.
Earlier last week Ms. Maciel, who was in the courtroom for Mr. Bray's sentencing, pled guilty to charges of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of heroin. She was sentenced to two years of supervised probation.
Mr. Bray has spent the 618 days following his February 2007 arrest behind bars. Following one month spent at a drug treatment program, he has been incarcerated in the Dukes County House of Correction in Edgartown.
In the courtroom, attorneys on both sides of the case offered passionate arguments. At issue were the length of the prison term and whether Mr. Bray would serve his sentence in the Dukes County House of Correction or in a state prison on the mainland.
In her sentencing recommendation, Ms. Marshard outlined a string of convictions and probation violations dating back to 1994, mostly in Boston. She also noted trouble with the law in Georgia, where Mr. Bray was born and raised.
"He's had ten separate opportunities to be on supervised probation," said Ms. Marshard. "He has not succeeded. Mr. Bray is a drug dealer and a substance abuser." She told the court that he moved to Martha's Vineyard to set up a drug operation, in order to fund his own addiction.
Mr. Nagle argued that if the sentence was served here on Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Bray could take advantage of rehabilitation programs not available in state prison. "He is going to get additional help to address the issues that are going to affect his success going forward," said Mr. Nagle.
The plea agreement presented to the judge called for a sentence of from 2.5 to 4 years in state prison. Mr. Nagle pleaded for a sentence of 2.5 years, with six months probation to follow.
Ms. Marshard asked for four years in state prison, and three years of probation to follow.
Mr. Bray also addressed the court. He spoke directly to the judge who would soon decide his fate.
"What I done was wrong," said Mr. Bray in a soft voice that belied his hefty 6-foot, 7-inch frame. "I know it was wrong. I am a criminal in society, but I am not criminally minded. I ask that you give me a chance."
Quietly and without fanfare, Judge Cratsley issued his decision. "I think you need a three-year sentence," he said. "Your criminal record represents a consistent pattern." Judge Cratsley said that drug crime against "this special community, this tight-knit community does a great deal of harm."
The term imposed by the judge will send Mr. Bray to the state correctional system for not more than 3.5 years, and not less than three years. He will receive credit for the 618 days he been imprisoned since his arrest, so effectively, the sentence imposed means Mr. Bray will spend the next 22 months behind bars, minus any time earned for good behavior.
He will begin his sentence at Cedar Junction, the state prison in Walpole where most convicted criminals are sent for evaluation and assignment. He may be assigned to serve most of the sentence at a state prison in Shirley, or Concord. The judge has no authority over where the sentence is served, and he said it has not been his practice to make any recommendations. Following the court proceedings, Ms. Marshard told The Martha's Vineyard Times that in her 16 years as a prosecutor, "I have seldom seen so many drug convictions where an individual has avoided state prison."
For more than a year, Mr. Bray had pressed to be allowed to serve his sentence at the Dukes County House of Correction, located on upper Main Street in Edgartown and under the control of the elected Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack.
The small facility has a reputation for safety and relative comfort compared to mainland facilities. In the past, high-profile mainland criminals that have included a member of Saudi Arabia's extended royal family convicted of motor vehicle homicide and an off-Island priest convicted of child pornography have served time on Martha's Vineyard, often for their own safety.
In the case of Mr. Bray, Ms. Marshard told The Martha's Vineyard Times she was adamant that he serve the remainder of his time in the state prison system.
"I think it's appropriate for a variety of reasons," said Ms. Marshard. "First and foremost is the number of times he's been convicted and incarcerated for drugs. At some point it's no longer appropriate to remain in a local house of correction. You belong in the state system where it is more restrictive, and they deal with criminals of the same element. Mr. Bray has spent a significant part of the last 15 years incarcerated in the Boston area. At some point, a defendant with that type of record is most appropriate in the state system. The district attorney's office has concerns when you're housing someone with an established criminal record with the same people who are serving relatively brief jail sentences."