A federal court judge on Thursday sentenced 21-year-old Romesh Vance, who was featured in a 2005 documentary about Baltimore boys sent to boarding school in Kenya, to 70 months in prison for participating in a drug conspiracy at the Gilmor Homes public housing complex.
"I'm hoping that Mr. Vance will be one of the real success stories," U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg said in handing down the sentence. Legg noted Vance's youth, "tremendous" family support and the many opportunities he's had in his short life that have shown him better ways of doing things.
"He has had good role models," Legg said. "He's not a person who's only seen the bad side."
Vance was 12 when he was chosen to be one of 20 underprivileged city kids sent in 2003 to the Baraka School, which was started by the Abell Foundation in the mid-1990s to teach middle-schoolers in an environment far away from city dangers. But the school closed after his first year there, and Vance returned to the United States.
Over the next several years, he would give up a position at a Mississippi boarding school, leave his mother's home, and gain — then lose — a spot as an extra on the HBO series "The Wire," before turning to street crimes.
He was previously convicted of gun and drug possession and has been charged with other crimes, including murder and kidnapping, though those cases were dropped. He pleaded guilty in federal court in October to dealing crack and cocaine at Gilmor with 21 others, who have also been convicted in the case.
"Romesh has failed to seize upon a number of the extraordinary opportunities," Vance's attorney, Charles N. Curlett Jr., wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "This realization contributes significantly to his true remorse and repentance."
Vance, who has a 13-month-old daughter, told the judge he was "taking full responsibility" for his actions.
"I am willing to change," he said, "to be a better man, a better father."