HAMMOND — A federal judge had to weigh a man's criminal history against a chronicle of his childhood abuse as well as being in the crosshairs of Gary's street violence.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon imposed a 30-month prison term late last week for Anthony Cruz, a break for a man with a rap sheet long enough to have pushed his sentence closer to the maximum of 10 years.
Cruz already has had a decade of incarceration under his belt for 14 juvenile and adult violations and he had been cooling his heels in federal custody since his arrest Dec. 1, 2015.
He pleaded guilty in June 2016 to being a felon in possession of a Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. His defense attorney, Kerry C. Connor, conceded in court papers this is Cruz's fourth such weapon's conviction.
She argued in mitigation there is no evidence he has shot anyone or has been convicted of violent crimes, in a sentencing memorandum she filed before the judge.
"He was raised by a very young, single mother, while she was still a teenager. She worked hard to provide for her children, but...exposed Antony to neglect and long-term abuse at the hands of a man she chose to bring into the home.
"Mr. Cruz was fending for himself on the streets of Gary as a young child and found little relief from fear and violence at home."
She stated that guns made Cruz feel safe and he acquired the Taurus only days before his arrest in this case, after he was shot and wounded in the hand while driving midday through Gary.
Cruz’s sister was killed in her home only last month. Connor said his sister's death has left Cruz inconsolable "and his anxiety level is markedly exaggerated."
The U.S. Attorney's office agreed in its own memorandum to the court that a 30-month sentence was appropriate in the case.
She asked the court to recommend Cruz, who has three daughters, be placed in a mental health facility for treatment of his emotional disorders.
She said Cruz has indicated he would like to move from Gary, but he must complete his sentence as well as a year in supervised release.