Man sentenced to 20 years in drug case

Man sentenced to 20 years in drug case

URBANA — A Champaign man who pleaded guilty to having thousands of dollars worth of cocaine and cannabis for sale from his home and his parents' home a year ago has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Despite the huge discount on prison time that Kwenton Palmer-Smith, 32, got by entering into a negotiated plea agreement, his attorneys have already told Judge Tom Difanis they plan to file a motion to vacate the guilty plea he entered in early April.

"Mr. Kwenton Palmer-Smith was a substantial drug dealer," said Difanis. "This defendant had an outrageous amount of drugs for distribution in this community."

Palmer-Smith pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in connection with cocaine that Champaign narcotics officers found during court-authorized searches done May 11, 2012, of his home in the 800 block of Sherwood Terrace and his parents' home in the 3100 block of Sylvan Drive.

In Palmer-Smith's home, police found about 11 pounds (5,049 grams) of cannabis; 6.5 pounds (2,965 grams) of powdered and crack cocaine; the cutting agent commonly mixed with cocaine; a cake mixer with cocaine residue on it; scales; packaging material; a loaded handgun; and three kinds of ammunition.

At his parents' home, police found about 3 ounces (78 grams) of cocaine, just under $68,000 cash, scales, cutting agent, and a small amount of cannabis.

Police also took two cellphones,  approximately $3,400 in cash, and a small amount of cocaine from Palmer-Smith.

Given the amount of cocaine involved, Palmer-Smith could have received up to 60 years in prison.

However, Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark agreed that if he pleaded guilty, she would dismiss the charges alleging he had more than 2,000 grams of cannabis intended for sale and the possession of firearm by a felon and seek only 15 to 20 years in prison. She asked for 20 on Friday.

"Clearly, the type of business he was running, the type of people he was running with, threatened danger to this community and his household," said Clark.

Palmer-Smith's attorney, Leroy Cross, who has offices in Marion and Chicago, argued for the minimum 15-year sentence, saying that Palmer-Smith was not violent and that it had been about 12 years since his last drug-related conviction.

Palmer-Smith had convictions for a 1998 possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance case and a possession of a controlled substance case that started in 2000. He had subsequent convictions for driving under suspension, driving under the influence and resisting a peace officer.

Cross argued that Palmer-Smith had done a number of good things since his arrest.

Palmer-Smith's 16-year-old daughter and both his parents testified it would be a hardship for them to be without him, although the daughter said she and Palmer-Smith had only recently begun a relationship. His mother testified that her son had become a father again on April 29 with the birth of a son.

Palmer-Smith had been free since early last July when he posted $50,000 cash for bond. When Clark asked Palmer-Smith's father, Walter Smith, if he collected drug debts to raise that cash for bond, Cross objected and Difanis limited Clark's questions.

"I thought I was collecting from people who was willing to help him. It was never related to me that it was a debt," the elder Smith testified.

Champaign police Sgt. Tom Walker said Palmer-Smith's case was significant for a couple of reasons.

"Over the last 20 years, it's probably the largest cocaine seizure we've had in Champaign County besides a stop on the interstate," he said.

In addition, it was the first case in Champaign County, following a January 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in which a judge had issued a search warrant allowing police to use a GPS tracking device on a vehicle.

Walker estimated the street value of the 3 kilograms of cocaine that Palmer-Smith had at anywhere from $84,000 to $105,000.

Depending on the quality of the cannabis, it was probably worth from $4,500 to $13,000, Walker estimated.

Palmer-Smith is eligible for day-for-day good time on his sentence. Difanis denied a request by Cross that Palmer-Smith remain free until a May 28 hearing on his request to withdraw his guilty plea.

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sweet caroline wrote on May 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Sure.  Don't we all have friends who have $50,000 to post bail for us when we're arrested for a felony-size stash of drugs?  A likely story.

rsp wrote on May 18, 2013 at 12:05 am

Some of us do, some of us don't.

cateyes wrote on May 18, 2013 at 7:05 am

When he was first arrested I thought the courts stated they had to have a solid paper trail of where the money came from to avoid using drug money. With a plea like that, the State's Attorneys office may not have been as solid as it seems. For him to be such a danger, he didn't seem to be in the trouble with the law much. A lot more going on here that I'm sure we the public will never know.

billbtri5 wrote on May 18, 2013 at 8:05 am

another gun charge bites the dust.... another convicted felon gets a "pass"....but Illinois needs more gun control laws right?...

rsp wrote on May 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

You understand plea deals, right?

serf wrote on May 18, 2013 at 8:05 am

You people are ridiculous.

A guy gets 20 years and you're all standing on your heads guffawing about how they're too soft on criminals.  Get a clue.

I'd wager a guess that none of you have any experience at all that would qualify you to judge such matters.

rsp wrote on May 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

So the DA agreed to asked for 15-20, but when they went to court asked for 20. I seem to recall cases where that was grounds to withdraw a plea in the past. He probably would have still gotten the 20 if she was straight with the judge given the quantities involved. So if he's allowed to withdraw his plea, think he can get it down to 15?

serf wrote on May 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm

First of all, the only 'DA's around here are on re-runs of Law and Order.

Secondly, their plea agreement was 15-20.  That means the ASA can ask for anything within that range.  Most of the time, they are going to ask for the max.  The defense attorney will ask for the minimum.  The judge will then ultimately decide the length of the sentence.

I think your recollection is a little off.  I don't ever recall a plea agreement being reversed after sentencing just because the defendant wasn't happy with what the judge ultimately gave him.

Even if for some other reason the sentence was vacated, I'd say there's a slim to none chance that he'd get 15.  It would be more likely that he'd get much more than 20.  He was looking at 60, so 20 ain't a bad deal for him.  Likewise, the state doesn't have to go through the time and expense of trying him, and they don't have to worry about a nutty juror or two mucking things up.  He's gone for the next decade anyway.  

Marti Wilkinson wrote on May 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Having prior criminial convictions is also something that hasn't helped in his case. 

sameeker wrote on May 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Meanwhile, a guy who robbed two people violently got two years this past week. What a screwed up system.

serf wrote on May 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Good lord, here we go again.

Stop comparing cases to one another.  Let me let you in on a little secret about the criminal justice system in this country.  

*whispers* Each case is decided on it's own merit 

 

sameeker wrote on May 22, 2013 at 7:05 am

It is not the cases that are being compared, it is the crimes. There are no federal sentencing requirements for murder, rape, financial crime etc. Only drug crimes. The financial jerks who wrecked the economy never even got prosecuted, and if they had, they would have went to a cushy club/prison. Their victims did not choose to lose their money, in the way a drug user chooses to buy the product.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on May 20, 2013 at 9:05 pm
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Everyone's upset he didn't get enough time?  If you're a taxpayer and/or someone who has any interest in a just legal system, you should be upset that he got any time at all.

Now some very rich people will get a little bit richer thanks to another victimless crime being punished with a prison sentence.  He should have received zero years and zero days.  If someone wants to make the poor decision to use and/or sell drugs, that should be their problem, not the legal system's.

Marti Wilkinson wrote on May 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm

There are many good arguments that can be made for the decriminalization of drugs, and I agree that the sentence was heavy considering that it was a non-violent crime. That being said, having prior criminal convictions in the system is something that a judge will consider when sentencing. The amount of drugs found and the prior record is what screwed the defendant.

The documentary called "The House I Live In" does a good job of examining the drug war from all angles.

http://www.thehouseilivein.org/

What I found interesting about the film were the perspective that a judge and a corrections officer had to offer. The judge had to sentence people to years in prison due to maximum minimum sentencing guidelines, and the corrections officer noted the downsides to the current drug policy. Not to mention the number of private prisons that have become a billion dollar industry.

Until we can come up with ways to address this, these stories will keep popping up.