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Sentencing Date Set for Mark Steven Phillips, Convicted Drug-Smuggling Fugitive On the Run 31 Years

The day of judgment has been set in the case of Mark Phillips, the man who up and left in the middle of one of the biggest pot-smuggling trials in American history -- he was convicted in absentia, went on the run from the law for 31 years, was told his warrants had been cleared, returned to Florida and was issued a driver's license in his name, and was eventually arrested in the West Palm Beach retirement community where he was living.

According to an official Notice of Sentencing filed today, on May 26, at 9:30 a.m., Phillips, 62, is scheduled to stand before the same U.S. District Judge -- James Lawrence King -- from whose court he fled so many years ago.

On February 4, 1980, Phillips was found guilty of seven felony counts, for which he still faces what could be more than 30 years in prison.


Though authorities have claimed Phillips was an intricate part of the smuggling operation -- some have used the term "kingpin" -- his former associates, some of whom served nearly 30 years in prison, say he was a "bit player."

"He never sold so much as a seed of pot and was no insider in the Black Tunas," Robert Platshorn, founder of the Black Tuna gang, told me when Phillips was arrested. "He is a nice guy and may now spend the rest of his life in federal prison. After 32 years, to hunt down and 'capture' a bit player in a pot case is no credit to our government. It's a big waste of money. And a long jail term will be an even bigger waste of tax bucks."


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