Brian Amaral, Providence Journal, October 5, 2019
A notorious crack dealer and onetime gang leader released from a life sentence this year under federal drug-sentencing reforms is now accused of fatally stabbing a man on Federal Hill.
Police are searching for Joel Francisco, 41, on an arrest warrant in the death of Troy Pine, 46.
Police said Pine, of Providence, was stabbed to death Wednesday night inside the Nara Lounge, a hookah lounge on Atwells Avenue.
Francisco, who authorities called the crown prince of the Almighty Latin Kings in 2005, was sentenced to life in prison for trafficking crack cocaine. But he was released from federal prison in February, after President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform law.
Cmdr. Thomas Verdi, the deputy chief of the Providence Police Department, who long pursued Francisco, warned at the time that Francisco had a “propensity for violence.”
Since his release in February, Francisco has been twice accused of crimes by the Providence police — Wednesday’s stabbing and an attempted breaking and entering in July, which his probation supervisors knew about. Both incidents happened while he was on supervised release from federal prison.
Once the purported local leader of the Latin Kings gang, Francisco was convicted in 2005 for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Based on two previous felony drug convictions, he got mandatory life in prison, the sort of harsh sentence put in place to combat the crack epidemic. Because of the First Step Act, though, his sentence was cut short.
The law was hailed by criminal-justice-reform advocates across the political spectrum. Among other changes, it gives people the opportunity to use a 2010 law to get out of prison early, even if they were convicted before that earlier law went into effect.
The 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, signed by President Barack Obama, had reduced disparities between sentencing for dealing crack cocaine and powder cocaine, and eased mandatory minimums. Under the First Step Act, the 2010 law was made retroactive, so people convicted before it went into effect could ask judges to have their sentences cut short.
Less than two weeks after Trump signed the First Step Act into law, Francisco cited it to ask the court for a sentencing reduction.
A contrite Francisco wrote from prison, where he’d completed several programs aimed at bettering himself, that he had separated himself from “the proverbial ‘herd,’ by committing himself to a law-abiding life with his wife and kids upon his release from prison.”
Francisco was ordered to serve eight years of supervised release, putting him under the authority of a federal probation officer, records show.