Friday, July 1, 2011

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXXXIV): Meth cases dominate county's criminal case load

The June 1, 2011 issue of the Newton County Times reports on recently adjudicated criminal cases, and four of the eight cases discussed involved methamphetamine production or sale. Another of the eight cases involved the sale of marijuana. The other three matters involved arrears on child support payment, commercial burglary, and a sex offender's failure to register when he moved. A run-down on the drug crimes and the sentences imposed follows:
  • 38-year-old Richard Ducheff III was sentenced to 5 years in the Arkansas Dept of Corrections (ADC) after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the manufacture of methamphetamine. Ducheff and two 18-year-old co-defendants were found to be in possession of "anhydrous ammonia, lithium and pseudoephedrine consistent with a reduction type methamphetamine laboratory." Ducheff was also charged with trespass because the meth lab he set up was in an abandoned house "in the Liberty area of Newton County." The lab was discovered after someone complained about "possible trespassers." Law enforcement investigating "uncovered a 'one pot' lab." In addition to serving 5 years, Ducheff was fined $1000 and ordered to pay courts costs and fees. He forfeited all seized property. The disposition of cases against Ducheff's co-defendants was not reported.
  • 23-year-old James Robert Gash was charged in October 2010 with delivery and manufacture of methamphetamine, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia. The prosecutor dropped the delivery charge in exchange for Gash's guilty plea to the remaining charges. Gash was sentenced to 10 years probation and fined $1000. He will also have to pay court costs and fees of $695. The news story states that he "also agreed to enroll in the OMART Matrix program," but it does not describe or define that program.
  • Charges were dropped against 19-year-old Vatisha Urrutia who had initially been charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing drug paraphernalia. The paper reported that there was insufficient evidence that she "knew of the presence of methamphetamine precursors which were found both in her car when it was being driven by her boyfriend and in a barn at her parent's residence."
  • 30-year-old Kenneth Coy Smith was charged with simultaneous possession of drugs, firearms, possession of marijuana with intent to delivery and possession of drug paraphernalia. When he arrested, he was in possession of a "glass jar containing suspected marijuana seeds along with a plastic bag containing suspected marijuana all while in possession of a.22 caliber rifle." The story reports that he "also had a grinder, rolling papers and a suspected marijuana roach." In a plea deal, Smith was given 12 months probation and fined $1000 plus court costs and fees. As part of that deal, Smith pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, and the prosecutor dropped the charges of simultaneous possession of a firearm.
  • 26-year-old Bentley Royce was sentenced to 10 years at ADC after he "received judgment" on charges he sold methamphetamine. He was also charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and with possession of drug paraphernalia, including "a 16 ounce bottle containing lithium floating in a semi-clear liquid. Also present were empty pseudoephedrine blister packs, ether, Coleman fuel, sodium hydroxide, ammonium nitrate, coffee filters, funnels and glass jars with residue." For the manufacturing and possession charges, Royce was sentenced to an additional two years at ADC and fined $1000. Presumably, Royce's sentences were so much stiffer than the others involved in drug manufacturing and selling because he was not offered--or did not accept--a plea deal. The news report does not indicate whether he was tried before a judge or a jury.
The other adjudicated criminal cases reported were these:
  • 24-year-old Shane Travis Middleton was sentenced to 30 months at ADC for breaking into several area businesses, including the Jasper Farm Supply, the Dollar General Store in Jasper, and the White Oak Station in neighboring Boone County. He was identified from a video taken by a Dollar General camera. After serving that 30 months at ADC, Middleton must serve a 30-month suspended sentence, too. He must also pay a $1000 fine plus court costs and fees.
  • 41-year-old Benjamin Robert Carter was found guilty of non-support and ordered to pay $25,680 in overdue child support. He will also serve two years' probation. The report does not indicate whether Carter was represented by legal counsel, but I am reminded of this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court just this past week.
  • Convicted sex offender James Zabel, Jr., was sentenced to 36 months in ADC and fined $1000 for moving from Newton County to Sharp County without registering his move. Such failure to register is a Class C Felony in Arkansas.

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