Sunday, May 16, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LV): Middleton sentenced to 10 years for drug crimes

During my recent visit to Northwest Arkansas, I had the opportunity to read some coverage of the criminal justice system's handling of the charges against Ricky and David Middleton, a topic I have written about here. To be more precise, I had the opportunity to read some coverage from a source other than the Newton County Times, and the story I read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was very informative in that it went above and beyond what I have read (several times over) in the former newspaper. The headline is "Escapee sentenced to 10 years for drugs," and Adam Wallworth reports on David Middleton's sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Jimm Hendren to the "high end of the recommended term." I assume the reference here is to the federal sentencing guidelines. Hendren sentenced Middleton to two 10-year terms, to run concurrently. He also ordered Middleton to pay a $15,000 fine and be supervised for five years following completion of his sentence. The judge commented to Middleton regarding his escape attempt, "I think it's a good thing you weren't shot."

Middleton's lawyer, Chad Atwell, used an interesting strategy at the sentencing. He "described his client as a methampheatmine addict with a second-grade education. He said Middleton should get a lighter sentence for his guilty plea and shouldn't be given a stricter sentence for his actions after his arrest." Atwell is quoted as saying that "[a]nything at the top end is essentially a a life sentence to him."

The U.S. Attorney's office argued, on the other hand, that Middleton has engaged in a pattern of obstructing justice, including a number of escape attempts. An incident reported here that had not been earlier reported in the Newton County Times was Middleton's sharpening of a toothbrush, apparently to turn into to a "shank" or weapon, while he was held in the Benton County jail.

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