A federal judge yesterday gave Joquentz Constant, 24, of Dorchester, one last chance to turn his life around: He freed Constant from federal custody after he'd spent nearly 19 months behind bars awaiting trial and then sentencing on a gun charge, on condition Constant live with his former Marine brother in Brighton, who said he will support and guide Constant as he earns his GED and works toward a permanent full-time job - with help from Constant's other brother, an Army lieutenant.
Constant's sentencing yesterday comes after a jury in US District Court in Boston convicted Constant of being a felon in possession of a firearm in January.
That charge stemmed from his arrest by Boston police officers investigating the sound of gunfire at Columbia Road and Seaver Street around 3:40 a.m. on Aug. 25, 2018. According to the US Attorney's office, Constant's gun had one spent shell in it.
A federal grand jury indicted him on the felon-in-possession charge in January, 2019, as part of an effort by the US Attorney's office in Boston to bring federal charges against felons with criminal records, which can bring stays in prisons far away from Boston. Constant had been held in federal custody since his indictment and arrest.
Constant's 2018 arrest came six months after he was arrested as an alleged participant in a Mattapan Square carjacking. In 2017, he had been charged as a participant in a home invasion in which one occupant was pistol whipped; however, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office dropped those charges against him.
Federal prosecutors had asked Judge Douglas Woodlock to sentence at least 33 months, what they said was the minimum recommended sentence based on the charge and Constant's record "to punish the defendant, to deter him and others from committing similar crimes in the future, and to protect the residents of the neighborhoods where Constant has been committing crimes for much of his adult life."
But Constant's attorney, Cara McNamara, argued for leniency. She started by saying Constant's time behind bars awaiting his federal trial and sentencing, especially the last three under the threat of coronavirus, have changed Constant, who has asthma.
"Over the last several months, Mr. Constant has reflected on his conduct and life. This natural reflection occurred within the climate of fear and anxiety pervading correctional institutions during the current pandemic. In this climate, his primary thoughts focus on his parents and siblings, and his desire to see them again. ...
"Mr. Constant deeply regrets putting his loving and supportive family through the shame, embarrassment, and heartache of this ordeal, caused by his irresponsible conduct. He now seeks to be held accountable for that conduct, and accountable for the changes he must now make."
And she pointed to Constant's brothers, one a Marine veteran now enrolled in fashion-design classes at MassArt, the other a current Army officer stationed in Georgia - both of whom "stand ready and motivated to provide a structure for Joquentz, upon his release to help him make the changes in his life."
On his release, Constant will move in with his older brother in Brighton, who McNamara said would support him financially - and put him to work in the creative-services studio he runs when not attending classes at MassArt. He would also help Constant get his GED and a full-time job.
"Getting his GED, something to which he has striven for over many years, will be a first priority. After accomplishing that goal, Mr. Constant has many thoughts about opportunities he can pursue. He understands how fortunate he is to have a family who, in spite of his failings and criminal behavior, stand behind him, willing to help in any way they can."
"Despite his lack of high school degree, Mr. Constant is an individual who has worked successfully in the past, a good indicator of his ability to do so again in the future. Prior to his current confinement, he has worked steadily for good wages. At the time of his arrest, he worked as a cook at Fire and Ice Restaurant in Watertown, earning $23/hr. Before that, he worked in construction, earning $17/hour, and as a construction laborer, earning $37/hr. He credits his high hourly earnings to YouthBuild, a non-profit committed to providing young people with the support and credentials needed to successfully enter the building trades; there he earned OSHA and construction related certificates upon his graduation from the program in 2017. In this program, he also learned to culinary skills, and worked for the Green Team, planting flowers and doing clean-up work in Dorchester. ...
"Mr. Constant has a concrete plan for supervised release: to live with his brother, an ex-Marine, in Brighton. From there, he will earn his GED. He hopes to gain acceptance to Operation Exit, a program developed to target people just like Mr. Constant, where he can work towards a career in the trade unions. In speaking with US Probation, referrals for Operation Exit’s summer class of 2020 were due on May 1, 2020 but spots remain."
Yesterday, Judge Douglas Woodlock agreed with McNamara's recommendation.