COA cuts sentence for drug convictions

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a defendant's drug convictions, but found the trial court erred in sentencing him. As a result, the appellate court reduced his sentence by 33 years.

In Gary L. Williams Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 39A04-0708-CR-481, Williams appealed his convictions of and his 73-year sentence for dealing in cocaine, and possession of cocaine and marijuana.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Williams' convictions on two counts of dealing in cocaine as Class A felonies, possession of cocaine as a Class A felony, two counts of possession of cocaine as Class C felonies, and one count of possession of marijuana. Williams was convicted after Indiana State Police set up a meeting for a confidential informant to buy drugs from Williams.

The trial court ordered Williams to serve his sentences on the various counts consecutively. Finding the two incidents that involved Williams selling drugs within one day at the same location didn't constitute an episode of criminal conduct, the appellate court found the trial court didn't err in ordering him to serve consecutive sentences.

However, citing Gregory v. State, 644 N.E.2d 543 (Ind. 1994), and Jones v. State, 807 N.E.2d 58 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), the Court of Appeals ruled the sentences for each conviction arising from evidence taken after the state began sponsoring the criminal activity - by arranging drug buys from Williams to an informant - must run concurrently. The trial court ordered convictions relating to the two state-arranged drug buys to be served concurrently, but then ordered those sentences to be served consecutive to other cocaine and marijuana convictions from evidence seized under a search warrant.

"While Gregory and Jones did not expressly address this issue, the clear import of those decisions - that the State may not 'pile on' sentences by postponing prosecution in order to gather more evidence - applies equally to convictions arising from evidence gathered as a direct result of the State-sponsored criminal activity," wrote Judge Edward Najam.

As a result, the appellate court revised Williams' sentence and ordered all of his sentences run concurrently for an aggregate term of 40 years.

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