NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Douglas' son will have to finish serving his nearly 10-year prison sentence after an appeals court Monday sided with a judge who punished him severely after Douglas was caught with drugs in prison.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said nearly doubling the five-year prison term Cameron Douglas originally received to 9½ years was reasonable.
The sentence is "unusually long" and "extraordinary" since most inmates with drug infractions are punished within prison, but judges are not required "to turn a blind eye to behavior that can reasonably be understood as demonstrating that a particular defendant has shown himself to be a poor candidate for treatment or leniency," Judge Gerald Lynch wrote.
Douglas, 34, is scheduled for release in early 2018.
In a message aimed at prodding Congress toward reform, the court said: "It may well be that the nation would be better served by a medical approach to treating and preventing addiction than by a criminal-justice-based 'war on drugs.'"
And Judge Guido Calabresi said in a concurring opinion that laws force courts "to confront a vexing question every day: how to treat addicts who have suffered a relapse. We are not permitted to treat this question as a medical one, although, in some sense, it is."
He said Douglas was not unlike thousands of other inmates.
"The multiple costs of our imprisonment approach — including the expense of filling our prisons with drug addicts, to mention just a base economic cost — impel me to express the hope that Congress may someday seek out a different way of dealing with this problem," Calabresi wrote.
Michael Douglas had shown up at the Manhattan courthouse several times to support his son after Cameron Douglas was arrested in July 2009 for selling methamphetamine from a high-end Manhattan hotel.
In 2010, Judge Richard Berman gave Douglas a lenient sentence from what otherwise would have been a 10-year mandatory minimum term as Douglas began cooperating with authorities. But his generosity ran out after Douglas was caught repeatedly violating prison rules by arranging to get drugs, including four instances in which he convinced a 33-year-old lawyer he was romantically involved with to smuggle anti-anxiety prescription drugs into prison in her bra. The lawyer entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that enables charges against her to be dropped if she stayed out of trouble for six months.
He also had convinced a girlfriend to smuggle heroin that was hidden in an electric toothbrush to him while he was under house arrest in 2009.
In court papers submitted to the appeals court, attorney Paul Shechtman said Douglas drank heavily and began experimenting with drugs while a teenager, using illegal drugs "to self-medicate — to ward off depression and panic attacks." He said Douglas was using intravenous cocaine by age 20 and heroin by age 25. Shechtman did not immediately return a message for comment.