Prosecutors are asking for an additional 12 months in prison for an inmate caught with a finger-sized cellphone smuggled into a federal prison in Petersburg.
A lawyer for Kevin Lavon Smith, 32, is asking for a sentence of no more than time already served since his Nov. 15 arrest — the day before he was to have been released from prison after serving a three-year term for an unrelated crime.
Smith is set to be sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge David Novak. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of six to 12 months.
Smith was given a fully functional cellphone roughly 2.5 inches tall, 1 inch across and a half-inch thick by a female visitor who hid it in her bra on a visit to the Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg on June 20.
As Smith and his visitor hugged, a correctional officer saw Smith reach into her back pants pocket, pull out a black object and put it in his mouth.
That model of cellphone is popular with prisoners because it can be readily concealed and can be purchased on Amazon for less than $30.
Figures were not available from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, but a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections said that this year, at least four of these phones and five of a similar model have been seized in state prisons.
In court papers, the government cited the dangers of inmates using cellphones to commit new crimes. It was also pointed out that Smith instructed his unidentified friend on how to smuggle it inside the prison.
The government complained that Smith ordered his friend to smuggle in the phone, “even though he stood to be released from prison within a few months. In context, the urgency and insistence of his demands suggest further illegal activity within the prison walls was not far behind.”
In a sentencing memorandum earlier this month, Smith’s lawyer, Laura Koenig, asked for no additional time beyond that already served. She conceded Smith had four prior felony convictions but none for drug trafficking or a crime of violence and that he has struggled with drug addiction.
Koenig wrote that Smith spent five months in solitary confinement after he was caught with the phone. She contends Smith owed an unspecified debt to some other prisoners who persuaded him to have the phone smuggled into the facility to satisfy the debt.
Records show that Smith was serving a three-year term imposed by a federal judge in Richmond in 2017 for violating the terms of his supervised release by abusing drugs.
In 2014, he was sentenced to nine months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Koenig said he was homeless at the time and needed the money for drugs.