The Pierce County prosecutor’s office wants to go by the book, and insists Arthur Rocco get his full due - a 3-year prison term.
But Rocco says he is rewriting his personal book - from drug addict and dealer to responsible family man - and more time in the slammer will only hurt his wife and six children.
“I just hope the court won’t separate me from my family again,” Rocco said. “I’ve put them through enough as it is.”
Superior Court Judge Grant Anderson gave Rocco an 18-month sentence last April for drug dealing. It was a longer sentence than Rocco’s dozens of supporters believed he deserved, but it was as much of a break as Anderson could give and remain within the law.
Rocco, who received credit for good behavior and time spent in an inpatient drug treatment program, was released from prison in mid-December.
Now, the prosecutor’s office thinks Anderson went too far with his leniency, and has appealed Rocco’s sentence. If prosecutors are successful, Rocco could be sent back to prison in 1996 by a state Court of Appeals ruling.
Rocco last spring, when he was 29, earned the support of dozens of friends, relatives and associates after he had turned his back on a life of drug dealing and using, got a job, completed drug treatment, reunited with his family and remained drug-free for nearly a year.
Before Rocco was sentenced, they argued he had proven himself and that sending him to jail would put his recovery and his family in jeopardy, as well as waste taxpayers’ money.
Anderson in 1994 had sent Rocco to an inpatient drug treatment program before prison because the Tacoma man had told him he wanted to kick his drug habit.
During the 10 months between the time he graduated from that program and his second sentencing, Rocco changed his life.
While prosecutors insisted that Anderson stick to the original plea bargain of three years in prison, Anderson changed the sentence to 18 months.
Deputy prosecutor Tom Roberts said it’s not that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t applaud Rocco’s good works, it’s just that prosecutors believe the judge went beyond his authority in giving him a lesser sentence.
“There is clear case law on this, and we believe the judge did not follow it,” he said.
Rocco’s attorney, Frederick Hetter, said the prosecutor’s office has lost its common sense.
“How much are they spending on this appeal? Ten thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money to put back in jail a man who has already changed his life? This seems like a perversion of the system to me,” he said.
Rocco said the time he spent in prison “was a blessing because it allowed me to get really close to Jesus. I used that time to my advantage.”
But he doesn’t want to return.
“If I go back, then I guess it’s the Lord’s will. But I think my job now is to be here and support my family,” he said.
Rocco, who works for a contractor, said he wants eventually to return to school and become a counselor to wayward children.
He said friends have helped him and his family get back on their feet financially.
“I hope I can repay their kindness someday,” he said.