Aljermiah "Nuke" Mack smiled as he entered Judge Paul Engelmayer's federal courtroom on Monday, being sentenced for his role in the 6ix9ine-related Nine Trey racketeering case. And he had the same smile as he left to cheers of, "We love you, Nuke!" despite being sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Mack, 34, was one of only two defendants in the 12-man case who went to trial, and he was found guilty of racketeering and narcotics charges. He was found guilty of robbing his co-defendant Roland "Ro Murda" Martin in an intra-gang dispute, and of selling significant amounts of heroin and fentanyl.

The courtroom at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in downtown Manhattan was packed with Mack's friends and family, and the judge read out a number of letters of support—though not the letter Mack received from longtime friend Cam'ron. As the hearing began, the judge notably disagreed with the government's contention that Mack should receive a sentence of more than 30 years. Engelmayer insisted that the fact Mack fought his charges at trial should not be held against him in the extreme.

"It begins to look like there's a trial penalty," Engelmayer told Assistant US Attorney Michael Longyear. "I'm worried that because Mr. Mack went to trial, the dumptruck is being unloaded on him."

When it came time for Mack to speak on his own behalf for the first time (he did not testify at trial), he kept it short. He said he was grateful "for the love and support I've received throughout this ordeal." He spoke of having a difficult time growing up. "Every day I felt reminded that my only two options would be death or a jail sentence."

When Judge Engelmayer pronounced his sentence, he noted that Mack, in his statement, did not seem to acknowledge that he had done wrong.

"You have done nothing to accept responsibility," the judge said. "Beyond a generic apology to your family, you haven't even accepted responsibility today." Had Mack done so, Engelmayer continued, his sentence would have been three or four years shorter.

The 28 letters Mack received attesting to his character had a positive influence on the judge. But in the end, he said they only went so far. It was difficult, Engelmayer said, to square the Aljermiah Mack in those letters with the drug dealing and gang violence he heard about in trial—and that he heard Mack himself describe in recorded phone calls. 

"I see this all the time," the judge said. "The same person can be capable of great goodness and great—I'll say it—evil." And he ended by saying that he hoped the person in the letters would ultimately triumph.

"Remember all the beautiful testimonials your friends and family wrote about you," the judge concluded. "Aspire to be that guy."

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