Our criminal justice system is an imperfect one, although it still is the best there is.

But sometimes there seem to be clear inequities in what transpires within the courtrooms. Last week was one of those times.

On March 26, a 36-year-old Portland man was sentenced to seven years in prison for dealing cocaine in Rockland. Kaihlil Nigro was suspected of dealing cocaine and he was caught when he twice sold to an undercover informant in Rockland. Drug agents found more than 1.5 ounces of cocaine in a safe that was traced back to Nigro.

Nigro’s sentence was more severe because he had a prior felony drug conviction in December 2008.

That same day, in that same courthouse, 47-year-old Harold Clarke of Cushing was being sentenced for aggravated trafficking in marijuana. Police found 4 ounces of marijuana after a confidential informant told agents that Clarke had sold the drug. Clarke admitted to the agents who searched his home that he had been selling marijuana for six to eight months.

He apologized to the judge and said he would never do it again.

Clarke’s record is substantial. His crimes include a manslaughter conviction for the November 1994 death of 4-year-old Deanna Marie Wadsworth. Deanna, who was fond of Barney the purple dinosaur, would have been an adult today if not for the violent assault inflicted on her by the man who was her caretaker that day.

Clarke was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison. He served his time and was released.

A few years after being released, he was caught for operating under the influence while driving in Waldo County. While serving a jail sentence in November 2004 for OUI, he punched another inmate and was later convicted of assault. He got 30 days for that crime.

Then last year, police received a tip that he was selling marijuana. A search of his home found 4 ounces of the drug. Clarke readily admitted that he had been selling the drug for six to eight months.

The Attorney General’s Office, which also prosecuted Nigro, agreed to seek no jail time for Clarke. One of the reasons given by the prosecution for not seeking jail time was that Clarke cooperated with drug agents when they arrived to search his home. He cooperated by telling the agents where his marijuana stash was located.

The prosecutor also pointed out that Clarke’s record dated far back — to the 1990s. When the judge asked whether the manslaughter conviction was a vehicular manslaughter case, the prosecutor admitted she did not know. No further inquiry was done, so the judge was not made aware that it was a violent assault.

The problem was that the prosecution said it was not aware Clarke had an assault conviction from 2005. She refused to say whether knowing of that assault would have led her to recommend a different sentence.

The prosecutor said there were other reasons for the recommendation of no jail time but did not provide those reasons to the judge. In the end, the judge went along with the recommendation of no jail time.

So one person gets seven years for dealing cocaine. Another person gets off with a suspended jail term for dealing marijuana.

To continue with this inequity argument, a local woman is awaiting sentencing on a federal drug conviction. Rochelle Kenney, 50, of Rockland is facing decades in prison for providing methadone to her brother that may have unintentionally led to his death five years ago.

When the feds get involved, the stakes are always higher. There is no clear reason why the district attorney will take a case, or the Attorney General’s Office, or the big guns (the U.S. Attorney’s Office).

But of all these defendants, which one committed the most heinous crime?

Is this justice for all?