Actually, a lot of people don't get what they "should get" when dealing with the courts. If he didn't have legal counsel (that he paid for) I could see him doing a couple of years on a first time drug charge. I went to school with a guy that got sentenced to a LONG time in federal prison for selling cocaine. He got out "early" after spending about 5 years behind bars.
If you ever have the misfortune of getting mixed up in the system, good luck to you. Maybe you have been in trouble and have gotten lucky. I went to court on two VERY ridiculous charges. I paid for a lawyer. He kept putting the case off until the DA finally agreed to drop the charges. It all depends on what mood you catch them in. It was proven to me when my charges were dropped. My lawyer didn't tell me what he was doing, but I figured it out. I wound up showing up to court about 6 or 7 times on the same charge. The first several times, the DA didn't agree to drop the charges. Finally, one random day, he said "OK" and the charges were dropped. Before that he had offered something dumb like community service. My lawyer just kept saying "I wouldn't take it". So I kept going back to court and one day the DA just agreed to drop the charges. The first charge cost me $250.00. The second one cost me $1500.00.
If I would have walked in there with a public defender, I would have gotten (probably) 80 hours of community service and a charge on my record that would have kept me from EVER getting a decent job. I have a family. My son is GOING TO EAT whether I get his food through legitimate means or not. If that would have been put on my record, I would probably be in prison or headed there today for some BS charge (and it was BS, trust me on that) that I shouldn't have been charged with in the first place.
Some people deserve to be in jail for the things they do. A lot of people are sitting in prison right now who don't deserve to be there by a long stretch.