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Sikeston man sentenced to prison for selling drugs near public areas

Sunday, November 4, 2007

BENTON -- Two Sikeston men were sentenced to prison Friday for selling drugs near a school and public housing.

Sale near a school or near public housing is a class A felony that carries a minimum 10 years in prison to 30 years in prison no matter how small the amount of controlled substance that is involved in the sale.

"The placement of Sikeston's schools and government housing supports law enforcement efforts to move drug dealers out of the area when approximately 80 percent of the city is within 2,000 feet of school property or 1,000 feet of government housing," Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd said.

When asked how first-time drug dealers are treated if they sell in a school zone or near government housing, Boyd said generally those caught selling in the 'A felony sale zones' will be so prosecuted without reduction in charges. This goes for any individual who has been selling for sometime but have just been caught for their first time, he said.

"A first-time offender can expect to be offered 10 years in prison to serve, 15 years with a 120-day call back or a 20 year sentence and five years of probation if the offender wishes to roll the dice on straight probation with an extended sentence," Boyd said. "If an individual decides to sell drugs for whatever reason, they have moved into a higher level of criminal offender by their decision to sell illegal substances."

Michael Jelks, 35, of Sikeston, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sale of a controlled substance near a school.

Jelks pled guilty to the felony drug sale on April 14, 2005. At that time, Jelks was placed on probation for a period of 5 years with a 30 year prison sentence as a back up if he violated probation.

Prior to his plea, the state offered him a choice of a lesser sentence to serve but Jelks informed the court that he could walk down the five years of probation and he would not do the 30 year sentence. Jelks had a number of prior felonies involving property crimes such as stealing and forgery.

Jelks violated his probation on seven specific dates most relating to the continued use of controlled substances. Through his time on probation, Jelks was offered substance abuse treatment on an outpatient basis at least five times and performed a 120-day institutional treatment program in the Missouri Department of Corrections that was completed in May. Jelks had a subsequent use of controlled substance in August.

"On this last violation, the judge pulled the trigger and sent Mr. Jelk's to prison despite his 30 year prison sentence gamble," Boyd said. "Mr. Jelk is an example of a drug user who first steals to supply their habit then turns to selling controlled substances to support his habit resulting in him being charged with this sale. More than 85 percent of all criminal activity (stealing, assault, child abuse, sexual assault, prostitution, etc.) can be traced back to the use or abuse of illegal substances."

The facts supporting Jelk's conviction involves him selling a quantity of crack cocaine on January 24, 2004, near the intersection of Ruth and Coleman in Sikeston, to an confidential informant working with Sikeston Detective Chris Rataj.

Travis Williams, 26, of Sikeston was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sale of a controlled substance near a school.

"Mr. Williams decided to take a 10-year prison sentence rather than take his case to trial or plead open to the court and argue for probation." Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul R. Boyd said:

The facts supporting Williams' conviction involved the sale of crack cocaine on Oct. 25, 2005, to a confidential informant working for Sikeston Detective Bobby Sullivan. The sale occurred near Lee Hunter School and was caught on video tape. The sale involved about .5 grams of crack cocaine.

"If Mr. Williams had testified at trial, the state would have been able to let a jury know of his prior felony drug conviction," Boyd said. "The main reason many criminal defendant's decide not to testify at their jury trials when some people might expect them to testify is the existence of a criminal record that the State will use to attack that defendant's credibility as a witness."