Could have faced up to 213 years on all charges
A plea proceeding without a negotiated sentence agreement had the appearance of a mini trial in Jones County Superior Court.
At the conclusion of the Nov. 12 proceeding, Brian Richard Jones was sentenced to 30 years with eight years to serve. Jones was charged with six counts of the sale of assorted drugs, possession with intent to distribute and a final count of possession.
Defense Attorney William Noland represented Jones, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin prosecuted the case. Superior Court Judge Terry Massey presided.
The defendant was 33 at the time of his June 25, 2019, arrest. He was charged with sale of suboxone, sale of hydrocodone, three counts sale of Adderall, and possession of schedule II with the intent to distribute.
In a story of the arrest in The Jones County News, Jones County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Barron Hall said the undercover investigation of the illegal distribution of prescription drugs started in March of 2019. Hall said Jones was a pharmacy tech at a Macon hospital and when arrested was in possession of 200 Percocet pills and $5,597 in cash.
The investigator said, during the investigation, undercover officers purchased suboxone strips, Adderal, Oxycodone, as well as Percocet from Jones.
Investigator Capt. Jimmy Black added that a search of Jones’ residence netted Adderall tablets and $32,000 in cash. He said it was Dep. Travis Walker who provided the information that initiated the four-month investigation that led to Jones.
The Nov. 12 proceeding began with the entering of the plea. Jones pled guilty to all eight counts of the indictment. The defendant, attorneys, witnesses and judge were all present in the courtroom but the court reporter and public viewed the event via Zoom.
The next phase was the sentencing and it appeared the reason for the non-negotiated plea was that the sides were far apart in what they considered an appropriate sentence.
The state’s recommendation was 30 years with 10 years to serve. The defense did not argue the length of the sentence. The disagreement was the length of time to serve in confinement.
Noland stated that his client had no previous criminal history and told the court his client had served 16-17 months. He suggested his client serve an additional 20 months.
Baskin said the state was asking for a $5,000 fine, and she had agreed to a maximum serve time of 10 years.
The state called Investigator Kenny Gleaton as its first witness. Gleaton said Jones participated in six drugs sales during their investigation and the defendant was arrested during the seventh sale.
The witness said the drugs involved in the sales were prescription drugs.
Baskin asked how Jones had access to the drugs and Gleaton said they came through the pharmacy where he worked.
The investigator said the DEA conducted an audit of the pharmacy after Jones’ arrest and found 37,652 doses of medication missing. He added that no drugs have been found missing since Jones’ arrest.
Gleaton said the defendant had 60 grams of Percocet on him when he was arrested.
Noland asked if Jones County investigators participated in the DEA audit, and Gleaton said no.
The attorney asked if Jones was charged with trafficking in Jones County, and Gleaton again said no.
Hall was the next witness. Baskin asked him about the phone call Jones made to his wife the night of his arrest. She asked if there appeared to be coded requests in the call, and he said yes.
“Mr. Jones repeatedly told her to get stuff cleaned up and put away,” he said.
Baskin asked Hall about the amount of drugs involved in the case. She then asked if the case was charged as trafficking, where the volume of drugs would fall. He said it would be high tier.
Noland asked the retail dollar amount of the drugs actually sold in Jones County, and Hall said $1,800. When asked he said the total retail amount of the drugs taken from the pharmacy, the answer was $13,000.
On redirect, Baskin asked the street value of those same drugs, and Hall estimated it would be $250,000.
Baskin submitted multiple previous drug cases similar to Jones’ case to the court with a majority of the sentences in excess of 10 years.
“If I hadn’t agreed to a maximum of 10 years to serve, I would be asking for more. But I stand by my word,” she said. “He is a drug dealer. That’s what he is, and that’s what he was doing in Jones County."
The prosecutor said drugs went missing from the pharmacy in an amount that made him a drug trafficker. She explained that the state did not make that charge because, when it comes to pills, the charge is hard to prove.
“We gave him a break not charging his wife,” she said.
Baskin said the defense is contending Jones has lost everything but in the state’s view he should not of had it to begin with.
“There is no difference because he is a nice looking white guy – a trafficker is a trafficker,” she said.
Noland spoke about his client’s accomplishments prior to his arrest and his good behavior in jail. He added that he was not giving excuses for Jones.
“He did it,” he said. “I have no disrespect for law enforcement, but we I do disagree in how to view this case.”
The attorney said his client should be charged with what happened in Jones County, not what happened in Bibb County. He said two years would be a fair sentence for that.
Noland talked more about his client’s history and that he did not agree Jones should be defined by his offenses.
“The good things he has done in his life do not disappear because he committed a crime. His life came crashing down but that’s the risk he took,” he said.
Noland said Jones is not a risk to reoffend, but they understand that does not mean he should not be punished. The attorney also alluded to his client being bipolar.
“Throwing him in the prison system for years and years doesn’t fit the crime,” he said.
Massey took a break for a few minutes to consider the case before pronouncing sentence.
When the judge returned, he said he tried to figure out why these crimes were committed. He said his conclusion was it could be greed, the love of money or drug use.
“The purpose of the sentence is to be a deterrent, both to the defendant and the public,” he said.
Massey said, to other pharmacists, a sentence of 20 months would not be much of a deterrent.
“The victims are unknown people; it’s not like he assaulted one person. It’s the public in general who are victims,” he said. “There are lots of drugs involved.”
Massey said both attorneys had done good jobs and he appreciated the support shown by the defendant’s family. He went on to say there was no right answer and perhaps there were mental issues.
“What’s important is for you to not do this again and for the public to know not to do this,” he said.
Massey told Jones that, when he is serving his sentence, he wants him to know that this community is serious about keeping drugs out of Jones County.
“We wonder where the dealers are, but today I have one in front of me,” he said.
The judge said he found that the defendant was a man of good character who made a lot of bad decisions.
Massey sentenced Jones to 30 years each for VGCSA sale of schedule III drug with $5,000 fine, four counts of VGCSA sale of schedule II non-narcotic drug, and VGCSA sale of schedule I drug, 20 years for VGCSA possession schedule II narcotic drug with intent to distribute, and three years for VGCSA possession schedule I drug.
All counts are to run concurrently for at total of 30 years, with the first eight years served in confinement. The remainder of the sentence is to be served on probation. Defendant is also to receive credit for time served from the date of his arrest, June 25, 2019.
The judge agreed to allow Jones to be sentenced under the first offender act but he added a caution at the conclusion of the sentencing.
“If you mess up, you can be re-sentenced to a total of 213 years,” he said.