George Martorano has been in federal prison for almost 28 years. He was originally represented by Robert Simone a well-known Philadelphia lawyer. Mr. Simone counseled George to plead guilty to all 19 counts in his indictment. Simone told him the judge would give him a reduced sentence by doing so. Instead, the judge sentenced George to life without parole. An unprecedented sentence for a defendant who pled guilty.

His case gets even more bizarre after his sentence. He appealed the sentence to the Third Circuit. The Third Circuit remanded the case for resentencing, and then Mr. Martorano filed a motion to disqualify United States District Court Judge John Hannum.  That motion was based upon the undisputed facts that (1) prior to the date set for Mr. Martorano’s trial, his attorney, Robert Simone, was indicted on tax evasion charges, (2) subsequent to Mr. Martorano’s plea hearing but before his sentencing, Judge Hannum testified as a character witness on Simone’s behalf at Simone’s tax evasion trial, (3) Simone was acquitted, (4) after Judge Hannum testified as a defense witness for Simone and before Mr. Martorano was sentenced, an article in the Philadelphia newspaper, the Daily News, criticized Judge Hannum’s testimony as “highly unusual,” and (5) Judge Hannum then sentenced Mr. Martorano – who had no prior record and accepted responsibility by pleading guilty – to the harshest of all possible federal sentences, life with no parole, although the prosecution did not seek a sentence of life imprisonment. Notably, after the remand, Simone was again indicted in federal court on other charges relating to his alleged connections to organized crime and was ultimately convicted.

Over the next several decades George was represented by many other lawyers who unsuccessfully attempted to overturn this clear injustice. This year, we decided to take on his case because we think the system of justice failed to impose a fair sentence. We filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to rule 35A. The motion sets out the grounds.

After 32 years in prison, he was set free thanks to President Barack Obama’s prison reform plan for drug offenders who had received harsh sentences.