A federal judge today sentenced Jovani Miranda, 28, to less time than prosecutors had asked to send him a message after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition but more time than his lawyer said was warranted for somebody who grew up on the mean streets of Dorchester and felt he needed a gun for self protection.
Miranda was arrested on the evening of Jan. 15, 2019 after gang-units officers spotted a driver making a U-turn at Geneva Avenue and Olney Street in Dorchester. After deciding to arrest the driver for not having a license, they ordered Miranda, his passenger, out. Miranda told officers he had a gun and they retrieved a loaded .357 Rossi revolver with an obliterated serial number from his coat.
Miranda was later indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm due to past convictions. Miranda pleaded guilty in January and faced sentencing today, in an online hearing he attended from the Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island.
The US Attorney's office in Boston asked Judge Mark Wolf to sentence Miranda to 46 months. In a sentencing memorandum, Assistant US Attorney Alathea Porter argued:
The details of the offense warrant a significant sentence. Miranda was carrying a loaded revolver with an obliterated serial number, while drinking alcohol as a passenger in a vehicle with three other occupants. In addition, as noted above, there was a spent round in the revolver that appears to have been fired from the gun he was carrying.
Miranda has a criminal history that includes multiple convictions for crimes involving domestic violence for either hitting or threatening to hit his girlfriend. ... In fact, in the days prior to his arrest, Miranda was allegedly involved in another domestic disturbance incident that resulted in the police being called. ... Miranda has previously received minor sentences for the crimes he has committed, and he has continued to violate the law. The circumstances of his possession of this firearm, combined with his history of criminal conduct, including domestic violence, warrant a significant sentence. Miranda’s sentence must serve general deterrence, specifically deter him, promote respect for the law, and protect the public.
But his attorney, Oscar Cruz, Jr. argued that Wolf should sentence Miranda to time served - the nearly 13 months he had spent in federal custody between his iindictment and his sentencing. In his sentencing memorandum, Cruz wrote Miranda deserved leniency because it's not his fault he grew up in Dorchester, his disagreements with his girlfriend were nowhere near as severe as the feds allege and because his epilepsy would make him particularly at risk to complications should he contract Covid-19 in prison.
In a section of his memorandum titled "The consequences of growing up in Dorchester," Cruz wrote:
When the Court reviews Mr. Miranda's criminal history, it will see that a particular geographic location is mentioned repeatedly, "Olney Street", in Dorchester, MA. The traffic stop in this case that led to the discovery of a gun and ammunition in Mr. Miranda's possession took place at the intersection of Olney Street and Geneva Avenue in Dorchester. Lastly, the United States Probation Department has indicated in the PSR that the Boston Regional Intelligence Center ("BRIC") has identified Mr. Miranda as an Olney Street "gang associate".
Mr. Miranda denies being a member of any gang but what he cannot deny is that fact that his lifetime address at 43 Norton Street in Dorchester, MA is literally around the corner from Olney Street and Geneva Avenue. This section of Dorchester has been identified as a "high crime area" by the Boston Police Department thus the plain clothes Youth Violence Strike Force patrol that stopped Mr. Miranda and his friend on the night of his arrest.
Although this area has always been his "neighborhood" and he has made friendships with people who live there, that does not make him a "gang associate". Having said that, he knows first hand that the area can be dangerous. In 2009 when he was walking in the area of a Walgreen's Pharmacy on Geneva Avenue with his younger cousin, they were set upon by a group of young men. One of the men was armed and shot at Mr. Miranda and his cousin. Mr. Miranda was hit in the left thigh and was later treated at Boston Medical Center for his injury. No one was prosecuted for the assault. To this day, Mr. Miranda feels "pinching" sensations in the area of the injury. Since that attack, Mr. Miranda has lived in fear of losing his life.
Living in this area of Dorchester has therefore negatively impacted Mr. Miranda's life in a multitude of ways. Although he certainly had control over his own actions while there over the years, he did not have any control over his family's financial circumstances and their decision to settle in this area of Boston to try to make a life for themselves. The Norton and Olney Street neighborhood has exposed Mr. Miranda to individuals and circumstances that have not only threatened his life but have facilitated the creation of a portion of his criminal history. Being there has also caused him to be falsely labeled as a "gang associate" and has led, in part, to his prosecution in this federal case.
Cruz continued his upbringing and his failure to properly treat his epilepsy all culminated on the night of his arrest:
First, he was literally a few miles from his home address on Norton Street when he was stopped by the police in the area of Olney Street and Geneva Ave driving with friends. Living in this part of Dorchester has always been a source of problems for him. Second, Mr. Miranda was not attending to his epilepsy properly by taking daily medication. This increased his fear and anxiety, likely to an irrational level, about getting shot at again as he did in 2009. For better or worse, he felt he needed to protect himself in the event he was attacked again and obtained this gun assure it. Lastly, with all due respect to Mr. Miranda, he was a very immature 28 year old at the time of his arrest. This last year of jail time at Wyatt has caused him to reflect repeatedly on the sheer stupidity of driving around drinking and partying with friends with a loaded gun in his pocket. His thinking is clear now as he has been taking his epilepsy medication regularly and he recognizes that he didn’t need to carry a gun to feel safe in his own neighborhood.
Wolf did not provide a written explanation for his decision to split the difference between the contrasting sentencing requests. With credit for the time he has already served, Miranda could be out in about 18 months.