Jason Miskiri, a local basketball star who briefly made it to the pros before opening a successful Silver Spring restaurant and nightclub, has been sentenced to two years in prison and three years’ probation for his role in a $12 million drug ring which was based in Laurel but laundered operations in the entire Washington DC metro area through Prince George’s County unto Montgomery county etc.
Miskiri, 40, already had pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess, with intent to distribute, more than a ton of marijuana. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced him Tuesday to two years less prison time than the government was seeking.
In a courtroom packed with more than 70 family members and friends, Miskiri — wearing a fitted blue suit, blue-and-white checkered shirt and red tie — made an emotional appeal for leniency.
“My conduct is inexcusable,” he tearfully told the judge. “I truly regret what I did. The actions I’ve taken betrayed everything that I have ever attempted to accomplish. I’m embarrassed that I let so many people down.”
As Miskiri spoke, sobs and sniffles could be heard from his many supporters.
Titus, in reaching his decision, said he was impressed by the more than 60 letters he received in support of Miskiri, including endorsements from Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Jim Larrañaga, Miskiri’s coach when he played at George Mason University.
“There are an awful lot of positives with this defendant,” Titus said, looking at Miskiri. “He doesn’t even have a parking ticket.”
After Titus handed down his sentence and left, those remaining in the crowded courtroom applauded, clearly grateful that Miskiri’s sentence was not as harsh as it could have been.
The charge typically carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, but Miskiri detailed his role and provided prosecutors with all the information he had concerning the offense in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
As part of Miskiri’s guilty plea, the government seized ownership of his restaurant, the Society Restaurant & Lounge, a popular upscale Silver Spring nightspot that Miskiri told investigators was established with proceeds from his drug business.
Larrañaga was in disbelief when he heard of the charges against Miskiri.
“There must be something wrong with this story,” he told The Washington Post this year. “He’s not the kind of young man who would ever let himself get involved in these matters.”
Miskiri, the youngest of five children who moved to Maryland from Guyana when he was 5 to join his mother, was active in his community.
He hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the homeless and donated to charities. And he held a basketball camp each summer for local kids. At his restaurant in Silver Spring, he posted a motto to capture the spirit: “Good food. Good people. Good will.”
But many of the people who knew Miskiri were unaware of his double life.
They didn’t know that in March 2009, a Texas state trooper discovered 200 pounds of marijuana packed into suitcases in a Lincoln Town Car that Miskiri had rented and was riding in. They didn’t know that he had told investigators that he became involved in drug trafficking through connections from his professional basketball career. And they didn’t know that prosecutors believed that between 2010 and 2011, more than four tons of marijuana were delivered to another restaurant owned by Miskiri.
After the sentencing hearing, Miskiri and his attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., greeted supporters and well-wishers in the grand lobby of the courthouse. The judge’s decision, they said, was a fair one.
“I’m just looking for an opportunity to come back stronger than before and be a positive force in my community,” a subdued Miskiri said.
He will begin serving his sentence in Cumberland, Md., in January.
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