The testimony of a neighbor, boss and brother of a Jones County defendant appeared to make a difference in the dispensation of his sentence following a plea hearing.
Jeff Anderson Bowie entered a guilty plea in Jones County Superior Court May 27 and received a sentence of 20 years each for three counts of the sale of methamphetamine, 10 years for possession of a schedule II non-narcotic drug and five years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Counts 1-4 were allowed to run concurrently and count 5 consecutively for a total of 25 years with the first 180 days served in the state probation detention center.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Faith Worley, and Bowie was represented by defense attorney Keith Fitzgerald.
Bowie entered what is called a blind plea, which means there was not an agreed upon sentence s between the state and defense. That puts the sentence into the hands of the judge.
Worley styled the case for the court. She said a controlled buy from Bowie was conducted by a confidential informant May 1, 2019. She said a total of three buys took place between the C.I. and Bowie, with one of the buys being at the defendant’s home.
The prosecutor said the Jones County Sheriff’s Office executed a warrant at Bowie’s home and found meth, scales and a gun. She said the meth seized at his home totaled 25 grams.
“Mr. Bowie has no criminal history, but this was three sales in a month. The state does not believe this was a one-time thing,” she said.
The defense presented three witnesses to the court as character witnesses. The first was a neighbor of 25 years who told the court Bowie was a good man who made a mistake. He talked about the r faith he had in Bowie to take care of his home and family when he was deployed.
The defendant’s boss of seven years said Bowie had been employed by the company for 26 years and was a skilled machinist.
“He was a good employee and good at his job. He was an essential worker and valuable to the company,” she said.
The defendant’s brother testified that Bowie was always willing to help his family and care for his parents.
“He’s needed by our family,” the witness said.
Bowie spoke to the court on his own behalf. He said he was sorry he put everyone through what he had.
“I’ve learned from this mistake, and I regret it deeply,” he said. “I had an addiction and I messed up.”
Superior Court Judge Alison Burleson asked Bowie how someone from a good family, had a good job and lived in a nice neighborhood became a guy selling drugs. She noted that the amount of drugs were a few grams shy of a trafficking amount.
“I need to know what happened,” she said. ce
Bowie said it started three ce to four years before his arrest. He said he tried meth and he liked it.
“I started getting enough for myself and then I started ‘helping out’ my friends,” he said.
Fitzgerald asked Bowie why he bought so much at once.
“I didn’t want to keep dealing with it,” the defendant said.
Bowie said he only sold to one person.
“I got to the point I felt I had to use to keep going,” he said.
Fitzgerald said his client has been clean since arrest, and Burleson asked Bowie how he had addressed his addiction.
The defendant said all it took was the arrest.
“From the time they came in my house, I haven’t touched it,” he said.
The judge asked Worley if there had been any problems since Bowie had been out on bond, and she said no.
Burleson then asked JCSO Investigator Barron Hall, who worked on the case, if Bowie had popped up again on their radar. Hall said no. The investigator also told the court that he had known Bowie’s boss all his life and he respected her work ethic.
“Her testimony made a difference,” Hall said.
The state recommended a sentence of 15 years, with the service of the first three years in confinement. Fitzgerald asked for either straight probation or rehab for his client.
After hearing arguments from the state and defense, the testimony of the witnesses and the opinion of the investigator in the case, Burleson decided on another option.
Burleson said on paper the recommended sentence looked low.
“But I’m not just looking on paper. I don’t think this is a straight probation case, bringing that much meth in the community,” she said.
After pronouncing the sentence, the judge added that the sentence may terminate after 10 years if recommended by probation. She also gave instructions that any violations of Bowie’s probation should be brought before her.
The judge then spoke directly to Bowie.
“I’m giving you an opportunity,” Burleson said. “Don’t make me regret it.”