Former Nebraska football player Ben Martin's life had spiraled into chaos before he hit rock bottom one morning last December, his attorney told the judge.
"They actually arrested him sitting in a parking lot in a drug-induced coma with guns and drugs and money sitting in his lap," defense attorney Bob Creager said at the 26-year-old's sentencing Thursday.
Police arrested Martin, who had graduated fourth in his class at Lincoln Southwest High School, in a south Lincoln Wal-Mart on Dec. 20. Martin had been a defensive tackle for the Huskers and had earned a spot on the 2008 Big 12 spring academic honor roll.
Martin, who did not have a prior criminal record, was indicted for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime.
He pleaded guilty.
Creager asked the judge to go below federal guidelines that started at 16 years and four months for what was Martin's first mistake.
Fifteen years was enough, or even 10, Creager argued.
"What were the real circumstances that took Ben from a pretty good spot in life to facing a significant amount of prison time?" Creager asked. "Really, it's an addiction issue."
Martin started using heroin, injecting it with a needle, when he was 18 and used it daily until 2012, when he went to rehab. He was sober for a short time, but relapsed and started injecting meth.
It was his addiction that led him to becoming involved in distribution, Creager said.
"I'd like to express that I am sorry for everything I did," Martin told U.S. District Judge John Gerrard.
"The fact that I did support other people's addictions by selling drugs is something I'm really ashamed of."
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He said he didn't want to use addiction as an excuse.
"But I would be lying if I didn't say it didn't drive everything I did and wasn't the beginning reason for selling drugs," Martin said.
He said he just wanted to put that part of his life behind him and move on.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Guillan argued for Gerrard to stick to the sentencing range.
"Whether this is what one would say is a just sentence or not, it appears to the government that a sentence within the guideline range is the most appropriate here, taking into consideration the things the court has to," he said.
Among them, Guillan said, the court had to try to avoid unwanted sentencing disparity. And Martin's case wasn't unique. Every time the court sentences someone, it's a tragedy for the defendant and his family, he said.
Gerrard said he couldn't in good conscience go under the guidelines, because of Martin's involvement in pounds of meth and the four firearms.
"These are just the facts of your case, and they're not pretty," he said.
Gerrard said Martin was lucky he got caught when he did and is alive today.
"This is an ugly business, and unfortunately today is the high cost of doing that business over a significant period of time," he said.
Gerrard gave Martin 16 years and four months in federal prison.
An hour later, Gerrard sentenced Martin's fiance, Audrey Glenn, to 10 years for her part in the conspiracy.