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Supreme Court split over reducing man's sentence

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The Indiana Supreme Court was divided 3-2 over whether to reduce the sentence of a man who received the maximum 20 years for having cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school when police stopped his vehicle.

In Antwon Abbott v. State of Indiana, No. 34S02-1202-CR-110, Justices Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan and Chief Justice Randall Shepard ordered the trial court to reduce Antwon Abbott’s 20-year sentence to 12 years. Abbott was the passenger in a car that was pulled over for a “window tint” violation. The car was stopped near a private school. Abbott had rolling papers, a plastic bag with 26 smaller baggies, and a plastic baggie taped under his scrotum that had 1.15 grams of cocaine and 5.17 grams of marijuana.

If not for being stopped by the officer near the school, then Abbott would have been charged with Class D felony possession of cocaine, which carries a maximum penalty of three years. These circumstances “weigh heavily” in assessing the appropriateness of his sentence, wrote Rucker. Despite Abbott’s extensive criminal history, the majority decided his sentence should be shortened.

“These circumstances compel us to conclude that although Abbott’s character does not necessarily justify a revision of his sentence, the nature of Abbott’s offense in this case renders his twenty-year maximum sentence inappropriate,” wrote Rucker.

Justices Steven David and Brent Dickson dissented because they wanted the original sentence left in tact.

“Although sympathy may arise when a defendant who commits a Class D felony suddenly finds himself facing a Class B felony sentence, the trial court here adequately justified the sentence imposed,” David wrote.

Police found a substantial amount of drugs on Abbott and he has a long criminal history. David cited a portion of the Indiana Court of Appeals opinion which upheld the 20-year sentence that said “Clearly, Abbott has not reformed his criminal behavior despite his numerous prior contacts with the criminal justice system.”

 

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