Thursday, July 26, 2018

Twenty years ago this month, Richard Shelby's son was caught importing hashish into the U.S., and he apparently got off with a $500 fine and nothing else

Richard Shelby
This month marks the 20th anniversary of an incident that drives home an unsettling lesson: White elites in the United States enjoy privileges that don't apply to the rest of us. Specifically, if you are going to get caught bringing hashish into this country, it helps to be the son of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

We are talking about Claude Nevin Shelby, the youngest son of the senator, who most recently was in the news for leading a GOP delegation to Russia during the week of July 4. When Claude Shelby was 32 years old, in 1998, he had a serious run-in with the law at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. From an Associated Press story, dated July 28, 1998:

The youngest son of Alabama senator Richard Shelby was arrested on drug charges last week at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, customs officials said Tuesday.

Claude Nevin Shelby, 32, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was taken into custody last Friday after U.S. Customs Service inspectors using a drug-sniffing dog found 13.8 grams of hashish in his possession, officials said.

Shelby, who had arrived at the airport on a Delta Airline flight from London, was issued a $500 administrative penalty by Customs officers. After paying the fine on the spot, he was turned over to the Clayton County Sheriff's Department for state prosecution.

He was released from the Clayton County jail on Friday, according to a jail official, who would not give his name. He referred questions on possible state charges to Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle, who was not immediately available.

 Sen. Shelby was shocked, absolutely shocked, that his son would be involved in the drug trade -- but not so shocked that he apparently could not pull some strings behind the curtains. From the AP report:

Shelby's father, a Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he and his family ``are shocked and saddened by the misdemeanor possession charge against my son and I will stand by him through this difficult ordeal.''

``However, I do not condone any violation of the controlled substance act, including marijuana derivatives,'' he said. ``My position on fighting illegal drugs is well known. It continues to be a priority for me regardless of personal circumstances.''

Claude Shelby, a real estate investor, is married and has one child.

Did Claude Shelby face any punishment other than the $500 penalty noted above? Not according to a book titled America's Corrupt War on Drugs: And the People, by Rodney Stich (2013). From the book:

One of Sen. Richard Shelby's constituents, Jerry Lundy, wrote a letter to the senator asking for his help on behalf of Lundy's son, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison on drug charges when the son never had any drugs, never was near any drugs, and sentenced solely on the purchased testimony coerced by DOJ prosecutors. That witness later recanted his testimony and made out an affidavit describing how he was coerced and threatened by DOJ prosecutors to provide the perjured testimony. The father was seeking the senator's help. Sen. Shelby responded with a standard form letter:

"We must take a strong stand against drugs, and I support strict punishment for individuals involved in the possession or distribution of illegal drugs. I believe that our nation's drug problem is serious enough to warrant harsh sentences."

But when it came to his own son, his position took a complete reversal. The senator's son, Claude Shelby, was arrested upon arriving by plane at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport with 13.8 grams of hashish. Sen. Shelby applied the proper pressure in the right places, and instead of a long prison sentence, the charges were reduced to a simple misdemeanor and ordered to pay a $500 administrative fine. Without the senator's involvement, his son would probably with a prison inmate with a long prison sentence.

Bottom line: Jerry Lundy's son received a 30-year sentence on drug charges that appear to be dubious. Sen. Richard Shelby's son was fined $500, when there seems little or no doubt that he indeed brought hashish into the country (from London) via an airplane. (Question: Since when is it  a misdemeanor to bring 13.8 grams of hashish into the United States?)

Yorktown Commons Apartments
According to an online resume, Claude Shelby manages two apartment complexes near the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa -- Yorktown Commons and Parkview Circle Apartments. He's been a deacon at First Presbyterian Church. He enjoys golf, water skiiing, wakesurfing, and swimming.

Sounds like a pretty nice life for a guy who might well still be in federal prison if his father was not a U.S. senator.

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