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.