A federal judge has postponed until May 7 the sentencing of Poospatuck Indian Reservation cigarette magnate Rodney Morrison on a weapons charge.
Morrison had been scheduled to be sentenced Friday in federal court in Central Islip. But U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley, in a brief order Thursday, said he cannot be in court Friday due to an unspecified family emergency and rescheduled the sentencing.
Prosecutors have asked that Morrison be sentenced to the maximum term of 10 years.
Hurley originally planned to also be pronouncing sentence on Morrison on a racketeering conviction for bootlegging millions of dollars in untaxed cigarettes from the Mastic reservation. Also, though a jury had acquitted Morrison of murder and robbery charges, the judge had said he planned to take those alleged crimes into account in deciding Morrison's prison sentence.
After a two-month trial in 2008, a jury convicted Morrison of racketeering conspiracy in the commission of cigarette bootlegging from his Peace Pipe Smoke Shop, as well as illegal possession of a gun. The jury acquitted him of murder in connection with the killing of Sherwin Henry, a rival smoke shop owner, and robbery and arson.
Hurley, exercising his judicial prerogative, had said he intended to take the slaying and the robbery into account in sentencing Morrison. Juries are required to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Judges, in considering sentencing for an overall pattern of conduct, as in Morrison's case, can use a preponderance of the evidence as their standard.
Then, in a surprise decision April 16, Hurley threw out the racketeering charge as well as the connected murder and robbery, saying Morrison did not have adequate notice that the cigarette bootlegging was illegal. Hurley said the murder and robbery were "tethered" to the racketeering charge, and therefore could not be taken into consideration.
Federal prosecutors have said they plan to appeal Hurley's ruling.
Morrison's attorneys have argued that he should be sentenced only to time already served.
Since his 2004 arrest, Morrison has been held without bail, as a danger to the community.