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A punishment that never ends

Twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, 33, appear in federal court in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Because of their extraordinary cooperation with authorities, the twins were sentenced to only 14 years in prison each for running a nearly $2 billion North American drug ring.

If U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo could have held his nose for extra emphasis in court on Tuesday, he surely would have done it.

EDITORIAL

Were it a normal case, Castillo would have handed down life sentences to two of the biggest drug dealers ever to be indicted in Chicago, Southwest Side-bred twins Pedro and Margarito Flores, 33. Castillo, a former prosecutor, said he would have given the twins — the worst drug dealers he’d seen in 20 years on the bench — life in prison, “and I would not hesitate.”

But because of the twins’ extraordinary cooperation with the government, Castillo sentenced them to just 14 years each.

A bitter pill to swallow.

But well worth it.

The twins’ crimes were as extraordinary as was their cooperation. They helped turn Chicago into a $1.8 billion cocaine- and heroin-dealing hub for the Sinaloa cartel. Castillo called their work “devastating. It is simply horrific.”

But at the height of their success, the twins turned on cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was the world’s most wanted man until his arrest in Mexico last year. Their cooperation led to the indictment of 64 Sinaloa-connected players, including the arrest of “El Chapo.” Count the twins’ capture as a big coup, not the normal low-level drug dealers Castillo normally sees.

Though the drug trade continues, as a downcast and frustrated Castillo said on Tuesday, government cooperation is essential and should be rewarded.

“Let the message go out,” Castillo said. “You can cooperate with the government and get a discount, even for behavior as devastating as this was.”

That edict applies to other crimes as well, particularly the violent crimes that rip apart so many Chicago neighborhoods. If more people spoke up, if more people helped squash the anti-snitch street culture, imagine the deterrent effect it could have.

No one thinks the Flores twins, or any snitch for that matter, gets off easy. After the twins complete their 14-year sentence, their imprisonment will continue. With the Sinaloa cartel after them, these young men will be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives.

Their punishment will never end.