NORRISTOWN — The severity of a Pottstown merchant’s punishment for distributing synthetic marijuana from his store will hinge on an interpretation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding mandatory sentences.
Rafie L. Ali, 35, who previously lived in an apartment above the Achi Store he operated at 315 E. High Street, saw his sentencing hearing postponed in Montgomery County Court on Thursday so prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case could weigh the ramifications of the high court ruling, handed down a few days after Ali’s June conviction, which affects how prosecutors seek mandatory prison terms for certain crimes.
First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and co-prosecutor Nicholas Reifsnyder are seeking mandatory prison terms against Ali, between 10 and 15 years, based on state laws that allow mandatory terms for drug sales carried out in school zones or with a firearm.
“He was a drug dealer masquerading as a businessman and that made him all the more dangerous,” Steele and Reifsnyder argued in a sentencing memorandum. “By keeping a firearm in close proximity to the potentially fatal drugs he was dealing, defendant contributed to the culture of violence that inevitably surrounds drug use and drug dealing.”