A former cigarette magnate on the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic has been sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in federal prison in a scheme to sell bootlegged cigarettes, officials said, putting an end to a case that had stretched on for more than a decade.
A judge Friday also ordered Rodney Morrison, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell bootleg cigarettes in December, to forfeit $6.1 million to the federal government and pay restitution of $250,000 each to New York State and New York City, according to Nellin McIntosh, a spokeswoman for the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, and court records.
Because Morrison has been jailed for 11 years, he will probably have to serve less than 2 more years more, with credit for good behavior while already imprisoned.
In addition, U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip ordered Morrison to serve 3 years supervised release after he completes his prison sentence. Hurley could have sentenced Morrison to up to 20 years in prison but went along with a plea deal.
As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped a charge that Morrison had been a felon in possession of a firearm at his reservation office. Morrison previously had been convicted of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 6-year-old boy by firing a shotgun blast at a barn as the child stood behind the building.
Morrison’s case took a long time to resolve because of appeals, the overturning of some verdicts, and a probe into whether a juror took a bribe.
Morrison initially had been indicted, but acquitted, on charges he attempted to control the lucrative sale of contraband cigarette sales on the reservation through murder, arson, extortion and robbery.
The murder charge involved the claim that Morrison had a former protégé, Sherwin Henry, killed in 2003, after Henry had opened a rival smoke shop. Hurley said after the acquittal on the Henry charge that he believed Morrison was responsible for Henry’s death, but he wouldn’t take that opinion into account in sentencing.
Attorneys for Morrison successfully undermined the credibility of the witnesses, many of whom operate reservation smoke shops themselves, saying that they had committed crimes of their own and were attempting to put their rival, Morrison, out of business.