By John Terhune
BU News Service
A former aide to Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu was sentenced to eight months in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty in federal court to selling cocaine and fentanyl while working for the City Council in 2016.
Gary Jamal Webster, 37, fought back tears as he explained to Judge Allison D. Burroughs how a “series of ill-fated decisions” derailed his promising career in public service.
“I have lost almost everything I had worked my entire life for,” Webster said. “I will be permanently scarred by a simple Google search.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard said Webster’s fall from public servant to criminal defendant was something “no one would have expected.” According to court records, Webster was a model citizen, graduating from Boston Latin School before earning a degree in political science from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2006. He went on to hold a number of positions in local government, pursued a master’s degree in urban planning from Boston University, and started a family.
Yet while Webster served as the director of constituent services for Wu, who was then the City Council president, he was participating in the sale of cocaine and fentanyl, according to court records.
Webster sold drugs on five occasions over the course of six weeks beginning in September 2016. He acted largely as a middleman between Jonathan Andrade, his cousin and the supplier of the drugs, and another family member who claimed to be suffering from pain related to chemotherapy.
Webster said he was originally “open to helping a family member in need,” but soon realized that what he was doing was wrong.
“That was not a situation I wanted to be involved in any further,” Webster said.
Webster was arrested on Aug. 23, 2018. On Nov. 7, 2019 he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and fentanyl, four counts of distribution of and intent to distribute cocaine, and one count of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl, according to court records.
The prosecution was sympathetic toward Webster and his family, noting that he had worked to “reduce the impact of drugs and violent crime that plagued the city of Boston” in his professional life. Still, Mallard recommended a sentence of 30 months, citing the need to deter others from committing similar crimes.
Burroughs called the case “incredibly challenging” and discussed the need to balance Webster’s character with the seriousness of his crime. She described the outpouring of support from Webster’s friends, family, and former colleagues as “incredible” before ultimately settling on a sentence of eight months, far below the government’s recommendation.
Even as the judge assured Webster that she knew he was a good person, she chided him for risking everything he had worked for.
“I just really don’t get it,” said Burroughs. “The whole thing is just incomprehensible to me.”