Champaign man gets 22 years for 'drug-deals-on-wheels enterprise'

Champaign man gets 22 years for 'drug-deals-on-wheels enterprise'

URBANA — A Champaign man convicted of having a gun when he was on parole two years ago has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.

After hearing evidence to aggravate Andrew Bell's sentence, Judge Heidi Ladd was moved to comment that the 23-year-old convicted felon was operating a "drug-deals-on-wheels enterprise."

Under truth-in-sentencing laws, Bell will have to serve almost 19 years behind bars. He was given credit for one year and almost four months already served.

In January, a jury took about 30 minutes to convict Bell, of the 300 block of South Country Fair Drive, of unlawful use of weapons by a felon and being an armed habitual criminal.

For purposes of his sentencing, which occurred Wednesday, the charges were merged into the more-serious Class X conviction of being an armed habitual criminal.

Testimony at trial was that members of the Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force did a court-authorized search of Bell's Country Fair Drive apartment on April 28, 2016, where they found a loaded Glock .40-caliber handgun on top of a kitchen cabinet that had Bell's DNA on it.

Because of prior convictions for burglary and unlawful use of weapons, Bell was not allowed to have a gun.

Police also found drugs in the apartment, but Assistant State's Attorney Tim Sullivan opted not to proceed to trial on those since the offense involving the gun was easier to prove and the penalties for being an armed habitual criminal are harsher.

However, Sullivan had task force members testify Wednesday about the drugs found in April 2016 and on one other occasion so that Ladd had a clearer picture of Bell's operation.

Task force Detective Marshall Henry testified that on Nov. 1, 2016, officers stopped a car with Texas license plates in which Bell was a passenger.

Henry said police had collected information that Bell's method of operation was to use rental cars in his drug dealing and have someone else with little or no criminal history drive him around.

Task force officers had used confidential sources to buy drugs from Bell on previous occasions and felt like they had enough cause to stop him on Nov. 1, 2016.

In the rental car, Henry said, police found 36 bags of heroin weighing 10.8 grams and 18 bags of cocaine weighing 5.3 grams. They arrested Bell on charges related to that and learned he was out on bond for the charges stemming from the April 2016 arrest.

In other aggravating evidence, task force Detective Cully Schweska testified that the apartment complex where police found the loaded gun, 8.8 grams of heroin, 9.4 grams of cocaine, a scale and packaging material in April 2016 is home to many families.

Sullivan also had Lt. Jenna Good of the county jail testify that Bell had received 13 discipline reports in the year he served in jail while awaiting trial. Two of those reports involved fights with other inmates.

Defense attorney Dan Jackson of Champaign had Bell's mother testify that her son has redeeming qualities and a 10-month-old son he's never met.

Sullivan asked for a sentence of 27 years in prison, just shy of the maximum 30 years Bell could have received, while Jackson asked for the minimum sentence of six years.

Jackson pointed out that Bell had not used the gun police found in his house or threatened anyone with it.

Reviewing the facts, Ladd said Bell was operating a thriving drug enterprise and that his prior punishment for unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon had little deterrent effect on him.

"The defendant viewed parole as an opportunity to pick up where he left off," Ladd said.

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annabellissimo wrote on February 22, 2018 at 6:02 pm

A few thoughts: There should be a law that allows for added jail-time when a mug-shot shows the arrested person smirking, laughing, or otherwise not taking the situation seriously. It is very good that this person will be in jail for a long time and thus we are grateful to the police and the prosecutors and judge, most of all to the police who did the danger work to get him put away. The detail in the article that noted the criminal's method involved using rental cars for drug dealing was disturbing. One wonders what kind of garbage is left behind in rental cars, even as residue, and what kind of risk that presents to the next car-renter and family, either for health reasons or for any possible encounter with a police officer.

GLG wrote on February 22, 2018 at 7:02 pm

I too love the smiling and smirking in the booking pics, We should have a picture of the convict a week after he is in prison! I'm sure all of the laughing shucking and jiving is over when they get to prison!   His momma said he had redeaming qualities? Like having a 10 month old son he's never seen? and having a gun he never used or threatened someone with?  He needs to be in a cage with the rest of the animals! He's proved he's not fit to live in a civilized society! No one will miss him but his momma and his parole officer and his public defender!

rsp wrote on February 23, 2018 at 12:02 am

He hasn't met his child because he's been in jail waiting trial for over a year. The child is only 10 months old.

rsp wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 am

A few thoughts: There should be a law that allows for added jail-time when a mug-shot shows the arrested person smirking, laughing, or otherwise not taking the situation seriously.

Maybe you can give us some expert opinions as to why he was smiling in this photo? Did someone in the room tell a joke? I assume you weren't in the room.

Was he aware that people who smile in mugshots end up with more favorable outcomes than people who don't smile? Or those who have the corners of their mouths naturally turned down?

Or just maybe he knew his picture was going to end up on the NG website like all the other mugshots and people were going to make stupid comments like they always do, like call people animals. He's not even smirking.

The very idea of added jail time for someone's facial expression is appalling.

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