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Demrow sentenced to 6 years in prison
Darrin Demrow
Darrin Demrow

MADISON — Darrin Demrow was sentenced June 25 to six years in federal prison for trafficking meth across state lines, five months shy of the sentence requested by a prosecutor who condemned Demrow’s “long and sordid criminal history” despite growing up in an “idyllic environment.”

The 41-year-old Brodhead native pleaded guilty in January to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Demrow was arrested in November after federal authorities determined he purchased meth in Texas and drove back to Brodhead with it. Federal agents also reported Demrow was getting meth in the mail from Texas. Agents intercepted and seized a package containing about one ounce of meth on Aug. 8, 2019.

A search warrant on his Mary Lane home in Brodhead in November yielded over a quarter-pound of meth, according to the Green County Sheriff’s Office.

Scott Blader, the federal prosecutor, argued for a 77-month sentence followed by four years of supervised release.

“While the defendant has certainly struggled with drug abuse throughout his life, that fact cannot excuse the damage that he has inflicted to society,” Blader wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Blader cited Demrow’s 27 criminal convictions spanning 20 years, including domestic abuse and burglary, and Demrow’s “lackluster” performance while under community supervision or on bond.

“The time for leniency should now be over,” Blader wrote.

Kelly Welsh, Demrow’s defense attorney, did not dispute the seriousness of Demrow’s destructive behaviors, however she argued that the mandatory minimum sentence of five years met goals of deterrence, retribution and protection of the public.

Current prison conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic “compels leniency in sentencing in these unprecedented times,” she noted.

“The realities inside of jails and prisons right now (cannot be ignored) when considering an appropriate sentence,” Welsh wrote in her sentencing memorandum.

“Serving a prison sentence in the midst of a global health crisis is markedly harsher and more punitive than in the past: there are no family visits, limited contact with the outside world, little to no recreation and limited programming... Inmates are cut off from meaningful contact with loved ones, all while fearing introduction of a deadly virus into your prison with no way to escape it.”

Demrow recently tested positive for COVID-19 while in a Dane County jail, possibly after catching it from a fellow inmate laundry worker who had also tested positive, she said.

In her sentencing memorandum, Welsh described in detail how Demrow fell into decades of drug addiction, wasted money and opportunities, spent stints in jail and prison and alienated his family.

Although his father had addictions and was inattentive, Demrow as a child “hardly wanted for anything,” she wrote. “Sickly and frequently hospitalized due to severe asthma as a child, his mother doted on him and spoiled him.”

In spite of his asthma, Demrow rode his bike to and from school and participated in wrestling, track and basketball. His grandfather’s love and support was his motivation to play sports and keep up in school, Welsh wrote.

When his grandfather died of cancer during his junior year in high school, Demrow’s life “crumbled all around him,” she noted. The loss pushed him into what became a lifelong struggle with drug addiction, mostly using crack cocaine. Demrow, by his own account, “had a Ph.D in crack use.”

Through the years, his mother enabled him. When she received a large inheritance, the money went to “more and more drugs to satisfy his severe addictions” and “to pay for expensive lawyers whenever he got in trouble,” Welsh wrote. When Demrow’s mother got sick and was dying from stomach cancer, he was in prison. She died a week after he got out.

He attempted and failed at sobriety many times, most recently relapsing in January 2019 after he lost his job and his sponsor died on the same day.

“For all of the support and resources he had, that so many defendants do not, Mr. Demrow suffered from some of the same emotional scars and shame that he tried to numb with alcohol and drugs. He’s got nothing to show for the benefits he enjoyed; he’s wasted nearly all of it away. He’s burned bridges with his daughters,” Welsh wrote.

“He does not want to live his life that way, but it’s all in his hands. He knows that.”

Judge William Conley had a similar message for Demrow. Conley explained his sentence of six years in prison plus four years of supervised release during a hearing held via video conference and live-streamed on YouTube.

“What I do know is if you don’t confront your past in a truly honest way and address it, life’s gonna throw you another curveball and the addict in you is going to say ‘F it,’ as you say, and use,” Conley told Demrow.

Conley drew a comparison between Demrow and Demrow’s father. The behavior of both men “has been a source of embarrassment in the community,” he said.

“You’re not doomed to that,” Conley said. Demrow’s father eventually found sobriety. “You can as well. Millions of people have done it.”