George Martorano

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George Martorano
Born1950 (age 70–71)
Philadelphia, United States
Other namesGeorge Martorano
Criminal statusReleased
Conviction(s)Distribution of Narcotics, Operation of a Continuing Criminal Enterprise
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment

George "Cowboy" Martorano (born 1950) was the longest-serving first-time non-violent offender in the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the time of his release. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1988 on drugs charges.[1] Martorano was released in October 2015 after serving over 32 years.

In 1984, on the advice of his attorney Robert Simone, Martorano pleaded guilty to 19 counts of drug possession and distribution.[2] Martorano was subsequently advised by both the prosecution and the judge, John Berne Hannum, that this plea could result in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.[2] The prosecution, however, had only recommended a sentence of from 40 to 54 months. On September 20, 1984,[2] Martorano was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the longest prison term ever imposed on a first-time non-violent offender in American history.


Martorano's father was reputed mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano. Louis Pichini, a prosecutor with the U.S. Organized Crime Task Force, pressured George Martorano for information on the Philadelphia mafia. But Martorano has always denied having any detailed knowledge of his father's business dealings. Judge Hannum's excessive sentence was a part of this pressure.[1]

Prior to Martorano's sentencing, his trial counsel, Robert Simone, was indicted on tax evasion charges.[2] Again, before sentence was imposed in the Martorano case, Judge Hannum testified as a character witness for Simone.[3] An article appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News criticizing the judge and called his testimony "highly unusual".[2] Martorano stated in subsequent appeals that Judge Hannum should have recused himself from his case prior to imposing sentence.

Life in prison[edit]

Martorano holds the title of longest-serving first-time non-violent offender in federal custody.[1] He claims the sentencing judge gave the unprecedented term to force him to flip on his father and other mob bosses.[4]

Martorano distinguished himself during his time in federal prison. In addition to being a "model" prisoner, Martorano:

  • prevented the hijacking of an aircraft by prisoners while in transit from Philadelphia to Oklahoma following the loss of his 33rd appeal. This incident has been documented by the FBI and Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) and was called "extraordinary" by D.C. DeCamillus, SIS lieutenant
  • was considered one of the most prolific writers in the Federal Prison System, having authored more than 31 books. He has also written numerous short stories, screenplays and poems
  • published a self-help booklet for inmates entitled the ShotCaller. This publication has been approved by the FBOP for use in prisoner re-entry programs [1]
  • has developed a creative writing course - "The Write to Life" - which has assisted numerous inmates in earning GEDs and developing creative writing skills.
  • is a certified suicide watch counselor. He often uses himself as an example in this role, telling fellow inmates: "If I have hope facing what I am facing every day so can you."


Martorano appealed his original sentence in 1987 and appeared again before Judge Hannum, receiving the same sentence. Subsequently, Martorano filed over 35 appeals. All the presiding judges upheld the original sentence.[2]


Martorano was released from United States Penitentiary, Coleman, Florida, on October 5, 2015. His release was part of thousands of prisoners released by the Department of Justice to "reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences".[5]


  1. ^ a b c d "George Martorano, prisoner of the drug war." The November Coalition. July 11, 2007. Accessed on January 19, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "United States of America v. Martorano." Justia: US Law. Accessed on January 19, 2012.
  3. ^ "George Martorano." Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf. Accessed on January 19, 2012.
  4. ^ Wood, Sam (February 16, 2019). "This Philly hustler, once called a 'drug kingpin' and spent 30 years in prison, now owns a CBD cafe". The Inquirer. Philadelphia. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  5. ^ "George Martorano Released From Prison After 31 Years for Drugs". October 23, 2015.

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