Suspected drug dealer walks free

Published 12:59 am Friday, September 2, 2011

NATCHEZ — Local law enforcement officials said they are disappointed in a court sentence delivered by Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders Thursday that let someone they say is a large-scale drug dealer walk free.

Steven M. Woods, 31, 95 Steam Plant Road, was sentenced after pleading guilty to simple possession of more than 30 grams of cocaine.

Sanders sentenced Woods to 25 years in prison — suspended, five years of supervised probation and five years of unsupervised probation.

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Woods was also sentenced to pay a $20,000 fine, which Sanders reportedly said in court she was seizing for Adams County Drug Court.

With the prison sentence suspended, Woods will not serve any jail time.

Metro Narcotics Commander David Lindsey said giving a drug dealer of this caliber probation sends a message to other narcotics violators that they will serve no jail time.

“We put a lot of hard work into that case, a lot of man hours, a lot of our money,” Lindsey said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to know that we do all this and nothing happens.”

The minimum sentence for possession of more than 30 grams of cocaine is 10 years in prison and the maximum is 30 years in prison.

Metro Narcotics recovered 365 grams — approximately 13 ounces — of cocaine from Woods’ house at the time of the arrest, Lindsey said.

Mayfield said it his not his job to criticize an elected official, as he is an elected official himself, but he was unhappy with sentence in Woods’ case.

“My opinion on this case is (the sentence) is outrageous and egregious.

“(Woods) was clearly not with the street guys. He is one of the largest drug distributors in Adams County.”

Lindsey said although Woods said his only job has been working at a clothing store in the mall, he was able to pay the $20,000 fine Thursday.

“It was probably drug money,” Lindsey said.

Mayfield said he also wondered why other charges against Woods were dropped.

Woods was originally charged last July with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of promethazine with codeine, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and possession of a stolen weapon.

Mayfield said law enforcement officers risked their lives to make the arrest following a lengthy undercover investigation.

When deputies and agents entered Woods’ residence with a search warrant, Woods was sleeping on a couch with a gun resting on his chest, Mayfield said

Lindsey said Thursday’s guilty plea was Woods’ second drug plea, and Woods received probation for the first one as well.

“The drug problem in Adams County is going to get no better,” Lindsey said.

“It seems like we’re fighting a losing battle because (the sentence) sends a message to other narcotic violators that nothing’s going to happen to them.”

Assistant District Attorney Walt Brown said it is the policy of the district attorney’s office not make sentencing recommendations to the court.

Brown said in light of the plea agreement, the cocaine charge was reduced from possession with intent to distribute to simple possession. Proving intent to distribute might have been difficult, Brown said. He said Woods had a small amount of marijuana and promethazine with codeine that were dropped as part of the agreement.

Other than murder cases, the judge has a large amount of discretion when sentencing, Brown said.

“(The sentence) we got today was not something we recommended,” Brown said.

Woods defense attorney, Tim Cotton, confirmed Woods had hired him. Cotton did not wish to comment on the case.

A message to Sanders Thursday afternoon went unreturned.

Keimon C. Brice, 32, 2-A Crown Court, was also arrested at Woods’ residence last July and faces similar charges.

Brice faces charges of acting in concert with possession of more than 30 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, acting in concert for the possession and intent to distribute marijuana and acting in concert for the possession and intent to distribute promethazine with codine.

Brice’s trial is set for Sept. 14.