A couple of weeks ago in Scott County Circuit Court, history was made in a sense. Lost in the election news that dominated the headlines, Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd and Circuit Judge David Dolan sent a message to drug dealers in Sikeston that is the most welcome news we've heard in ages. Instead of sentencing a first-time drug dealer to probation - which has been all but customary - Boyd and Dolan said "enough is enough."
Our community owes these two elected officials a sincere debt of gratitude.
Eighteen-year-old Lascotto Simpson was charged with selling crack cocaine to an informant back in April. The sale took place within 1,000 feet of public housing so the charge was a Class A felony. It was assumed by all parties that Simpson would be placed on probation. But Boyd said it was time to send a signal to the drug dealers here and to put Simpson behind bars for 10 years.
Judge Dolan agreed and dropped the hammer on Simpson. Simpson's attorney argued that the sentence was too harsh and the defendant had no prior felonies. But the attorney then said the sentence would have been different had Simpson lived in an affluent section of Sikeston. Well, the lawyer is wrong and owes an apology to the hard-working law enforcement officials who battle drugs daily. The attitude of "turning our head" the other way on first-time offenders obviously doesn't work. If it did, the drug traffic in Sikeston would be eliminated.
Without a doubt, Boyd and Dolan took a step that has been long overdue. Boyd says there are 10 to 20 other similar cases and pledges he will seek the same punishment, regardless if the defendant is a first-time drug dealer or a repeat offender.
Drug dealers don't deserve a second chance. It's naive to assume that this single episode was the first and only time this crime had been committed. If drug dealers believe they have one free shot at getting probation, how are we expected to stem the tide of drug sales here? Until we send a clear signal that we're firm on drug dealing, our problem will continue and grow.
Here's the signal we need to send to drug dealers. We may be unable to change your criminal behavior but we can change your location. We can put enough heat on the drug dealers that they will move their business elsewhere. And you send that signal by promising to put all offenders - even first time criminals - behind bars.