Newlyweds found traveling with two children and 35 pounds of cocaine are going to prison.
Ramiro Hernandez, 36, received a prison term Thursday of 16 years and eight months.
Judith Noriega Hernandez, 33, received a six-year prison term and was fined $5,000.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden sentenced them for conspiring to distribute cocaine.
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The Texas couple had been married four months when a state trooper pulled them over March 19 on Interstate 10 near Pascagoula. A state trooper said he saw two unrestrained children in the backseat of an eastbound Chevrolet Suburban 1500 and stopped the vehicle, court papers show.
I thought at first that the worst mistake I had ever made was marrying the wrong man.
Judith Noriega Hernandez in a letter to U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden
The husband was on probation after serving time for trafficking 456 pounds of marijuana. A search of the vehicle turned up a heavily wrapped package containing cocaine, court papers show.
The children in their vehicle, two of the wife’s four children, were taken into protective custody.
“I thought at first that the worst mistake I had ever made was marrying the wrong man ... the one I blamed,” Judith Hernandez wrote in a letter to the judge.
She said she had maintained her innocence until she learned the meaning of a conspiracy.
“I know God intervened to stop me from a road of self-destruction,” she wrote. “I’ve met God.”
Judith Hernandez said she’d been serving as an interpreter for Hispanic women she was incarcerated with, including at the nurses station and in church services. And she said she feels there’s a better purpose for her life.
Letters on their behalf
The Stone County jail chaplain was among 15 others who wrote the judge letters to ask leniency for the wife. Some were written in Spanish and translated.
One letter was addressed to Judith Hernandez from one of her children, a daughter.
It said, “I want for you to come out already and live a happy life.”
Ramiro Hernandez’s mother and two sisters wrote the judge letters on his behalf.
A fourth letter, from his daughter, was written directly to Hernandez: “I know the mistake you made but I need you more than anything.”
The case was investigated by a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent assigned to a DEA Task Force.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie prosecuted the case.