Henry Willie Quintana is 26 years old. Until last year, he had never been charged with a crime, not even a curfew violation as a juvenile.

But Thursday he was sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison for his first drug convictions. Under federal law, he must serve all of those 20 years."Mr. Quintana has a lot of people concerned about the remainder of his life," attorney Robert Booker told a federal judge at Thursday's sentencing. "All we're asking is that you give him some remainder of his life."

Booker pleaded with U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene to sentence Quintana to less than the 20 years required by law. Quintana is young, has a clean past and got involved with drugs only because his father owed money to drug dealers, Booker said. "He thought he was bailing his father out," Booker said after the sentencing.

"You're asking me to rewrite the law," the unhappy judge replied. "I'd gladly do that if I could."

But Quintana was convicted on the most feared of federal drug charges: continuing criminal enterprise. Anyone convicted of that crime must serve 20 years in prison, regardless of their age, past or circumstances.

The charge - dubbed the "CCE" charge by federal prosecutors - is part of Congress' move to stop crime by taking away federal judges' power to impose their own sentences.

Many federal judges resent the minimum sentence requirements that now accompany violations of all federal laws. "I think there is a big move to change them and give some discretion back to the judges. But I don't believe I have that discretion now," Greene said.

He sentenced Quintana to the 20 years in prison. Federal prosecutors wanted Quintana to serve as much as 30 years in prison.

Quintana refused to cooperate with prosecutors by naming those out of state he was buying cocaine from, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman told the judge.

Quintana was charged with 34 counts, all related to the buying and selling of cocaine. He was convicted on 32 of those counts.

Prosecutors tried to cut a deal with him before trial, offering to slash some of the charges if Quintana would name the dealers sending him the cocaine from California.

"Leaving out the crudities Mr. Quintana used, he simply told us to get lost," Schwendiman said during sentencing.

Quintana managed a drug ring of at least five people, buying and selling almost 300 ounces of cocaine during the month investigators taped his phone, Schwen-di-man said after the hearing. More than $200,000 in drug transactions were discussed in the phone calls, he said.

"We all feel sick about serious sentences," Schwendiman told Greene. "I'm not happy either. But I'm asking the court to impose the sentence the law requires."

The judge also sentenced Quintana to five years' probation after his 20-year prison term. Quintana's mother and father plead guilty to drug charges earlier this year. They weren't charged with the CCE offense and received much lighter sentences.

Greene suggested Quintana appeal his conviction. "He says he's not a kingpin," Greene said. The CCE charge is aimed at drug kingpins. "That is a question for appeal."

Booker said he will appeal on behalf of Quintana.

Greene also ordered prosecutors to set up a conference with Quintana should Quintana decide to cooperate with prosecutors anytime during his first year in prison.

Evidence at trial suggests Quintana was part of a much larger operation, the judge said. If Quintana begins naming names, Greene instructed prosecutors to seek a reduction in Quintana's sentence.

But such cooperation isn't likely, Booker said. "That's not a safe thing to do."

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Booker called the sentence "insane." Quintana - who goes by "Junior" - is not the drug kingpin the CCE statute was designed for, Booker said. "Junior just thought he was bailing his dad out by doing some drug deals."

"It's the law. It's clear as it can be," Schwendiman said after the sentencing.

Federal investigators tapped Quintana's phones for a month in 1992. Most of the evidence against Quintana stemmed from the conversations.

Federal prosecutors can only charge a person with the CCE charge if the person committed a drug offense with five or more people, was the supervisor of the operation and made more than minimum wage off the crime.

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