Jesse J. Dunaway, Jr., asks for a conditional pardon for his March 22, 2006 Halifax County drug
convictions, for which he was sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Mr.
Dunaway was convicted under Virginia’s continuing criminal enterprise, or the “kingpin,’ statute
as the organizer of a crack-cocaine distribution ring in Halifax County. Mr. Dunaway asks for a
conditional pardon mainly because of the excessive length of his sentence. His behavior is
unremarkable from that of other drug distributors throughout the Commonwealth and but for the rare use of Virginia Code § 18.2-248 charging Mr. Dunaway as a kingpin of a continuing criminal enterprise, Mr. Dunaway would almost certainly be serving a term of years, rather than spending his entire life behind prison walls. Mr. Dunaway is the only person in Virginia having been prosecuted and convicted as a kingpin of a continuing criminal enterprise, but his drug selling activity was not dissimilar from dozens of other drug dealers.
Dunaway could have easily been charged with a distribution offense – like countless others in the
Commonwealth’s correctional system. Undersigned counsel calculated sentencing guidelines had
Mr. Dunaway been charged with distribution of crack cocaine. Based on undersigned counsel’s
calculation, Mr. Dunaway’s sentencing range would have been 5 years 3 months to 8 years 8
months. This calculation includes Dunaway’s other two convictions. There was nothing
extraordinary about Mr. Dunaway’s offense – such as record weight of crack cocaine or a
remarkably elaborate distribution scheme, a typical trademark of the federal crime of continuing
criminal enterprise offenses. Mr. Dunaway was, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary, run of
the mill, drug dealer. However, because Dunaway was charged as a “kingpin,” rather than an
ordinary drug dealer, upon finding him guilty the jury had but one penal option – mandatory life
Because Mr. Dunaway has made an excellent adjustment in prison, has always been nonviolent,
has excellent prospects for success upon release, and is serving a mandatory life sentence for a
non-violent offense, it would be just and appropriate for the Governor to grant Dunaway a
conditional pardon reducing his sentence to 20 years imprisonment.