Madison man gets 6 years for dealing meth
Saturday, December 29, 2012 4:00 AM
A Madison man who pleaded guilty to two felony charges of dealing in methamphetamine will serve six years in prison.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ted Todd ordered William J. Stearns, 53, to a 10-year sentence, with four years suspended during a sentencing hearing on Friday.
Stearns was arrested in September 2011 after an investigation by the Madison Police Department. He was released on a $3,000 cash bond last year. The investigation grew from information gathered by a confidential informant, who conducted two controlled buys of methamphetamine from Stearns at his residence, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Stearns had two prior misdemeanor convictions on drug charges and Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis argued on Friday that Stearns has been a major player in the local "drug culture" at least since 2006.
Prior to pleading guilty to meth charges this year, Stearns was convicted of possession of marijuana on Sept. 13, 2005, and of possession of drug paraphernalia on Sept. 9, 2009, which factored into Friday's sentencing.
In his sentencing, Todd said he found reason to include the two prior drug convictions, as well as previous convictions of driving with suspended license and resisting law enforcement.
Sheriff John Wallace testified that Stearns had been the subject of a series of controlled cocaine buys by the Madison Police Department and Indiana State Police in 2006. Wallace, a detective for MPD at the time, said the case was not prosecuted because law enforcement continued to use the confidential informant.
The defense witnesses - including Stearns' parents, daughter and friends - confirmed that a number of people often stayed at Stearns' house on U.S. 421, but they testified to have never seen or known of any drug activity at the house.
Lewis read a list of people who allegedly stayed with Stearns, and the witnesses confirmed knowing several of them. During his testimony, Det. Jonathon Simpson said many of those people who allegedly stayed at Stearns' home were linked to drug activity.
"I'd say every name, with the exception of maybe a few, are names associated with narcotics," he said.
Furthermore, Simpson said that Stearns' nickname "Old School" has come up in drug-related cases for several years. In addition, he said two of the people who allegedly stayed at Stearns' home came up on a database as having purchased pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth.
Todd said he included information from the 2006 case in his ruling, but added that he did not put much weight into the testimony regarding Stearns' alleged connection with local drug dealers, users and possible manufacturers.
Defense attorney Bill Prime argued that the evidence in the 2006 case and information provided by Simpson was speculation and never tested in court.
"If he was such a big blip on the radar, why didn't they act on it?" Prime asked.
He argued that with two misdemeanor convictions and never having been convicted of meth possession or dealing in meth, Stearns applied for the suspended sentence. He also said Stearns was a low risk for reoccurrence.
Stearns also testified on his own behalf.
He admitted to the two accounts of dealing in meth but said those were the only two occasions in which he had dealt the drug.
Stearns said he purchased the meth after he was contacted several times by the confidential informant, a woman whom he said had a history of substance abuse.
"This is one of the worst mistakes I've ever made in my life," he said. "And it will never happen again."
Stearns went on to say that he took in a number of guests at his house who had no other place to go, but he insisted that he did not offer or take drugs with any of them.
"They weren't there to do drugs," he said. "They were there because I gave them a safe place to be. A lot of them I helped get off drugs."
And in the case of the confidential informant, Stearns said he once saw the woman attempt to kill herself, and that he worried what she might do if she didn't get access to drugs.
He said it took him three days to find a meth dealer for the buy.
In addition, Stearns said his marijuana possession conviction came because he was holding the substance for a friend.
In his closing remarks, Lewis said Stearns' version of accounts showed that he had no remorse and that he continues "shifting the blame."
Lewis said "nobody in their right mind" would purchase meth for a friend who is already acting unstable.
"It's one of the dumbest stories we've heard in court today," Lewis said.