Man sentenced to nine years in drug case

URBANA — A 23-year-old Champaign man has been sentenced to nine years in the penitentiary for his latest foray into peddling drugs.

Brionte Howard, who listed addresses in the 200 block of West Columbia Avenue and the 1000 block of Crescent Drive, pleaded guilty in May before Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd to possession with intent to deliver cocaine.

The plea stemmed from a Sept. 8, 2011, search of his home on West Columbia by members of the Champaign County sheriff's office street crimes unit.

Although they found about three ounces of cocaine (91 grams), Howard was allowed to plead guilty as part of a negotiated agreement to possession with intent to deliver between five and 15 grams of cocaine. He also had a stun gun in the home, Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton said.

Clifton also agreed to dismiss two other felony cases, one from 2011 alleging possession of cocaine and the other from early 2013 alleging armed violence and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

However, Clifton presented evidence to Ladd linking Howard to four different sales of cocaine during 2012 to police informants, all of which occurred while Howard was out on bond for the September 2011 drug cases.

He also presented evidence that Howard had a loaded gun and crack cocaine in his Crescent Drive apartment in March.

Clifton argued for a 12-year prison sentence, saying Howard was clearly in business for financial gain and had disregarded the conditions of his bond by continuing to sell cocaine during 2012.

Defense attorney Dan Jackson said Howard has never been to prison before and didn't need that many years to get his attention. He urged Ladd to consider his client for boot camp.

But Ladd said that would send the wrong message about the seriousness of Howard's conduct. She agreed to recommend him for drug treatment while in prison.

Before his conviction on the 2011 cocaine case, Howard's only prior conviction was in 2010 for possession of a controlled substance.

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