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Judge OKs plea deal in meth arrest; Bennett disapproves

May 9, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A Dubois man pleaded guilty Thursday in Lander District Court to selling methamphetamine in line with a plea agreement that Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett later disowned.

The deal was offered by one of his deputies and did not follow his office's policies, the chief prosecutor said.

In exchange for the guilty plea, the Fremont County Attorney's Office agreed to drop a second charge for cooking meth and ask for a sentence of five to 10 years in prison suspended in favor of

five years supervised probation.

The underlying prison time is a fraction of the 20-year maximum sentence to the felony he pleaded guilty to and a smaller fraction of the 45-year maximum he faced under the original charges.

Prosecutors charged the defendant, Trampes Frank Rivers, 40, with one count of unlawful delivery of methamphetamine and another of unlawful clandestine laboratory operations. The second charge alleges he possessed ingredients of a controlled substance and intended to engage in a clandestine laboratory operation.

Bennett did not say which who offered the deal, but deputy county attorney Timothy Hancock filed the charges, indicating he was involved in the case.

Rivers was arrested on April 17 after a high-profile search of his home by authorities. Officials at the time said they were searching a possible meth lab.

Bennett was not happy with the agreement but felt obligated to honor it.

"Many people speak for me, and I can't just casually ignore when people speak on my behalf," Bennett said.

District Court Judge Norman E. Young accepted the agreement tentatively, saying there was nothing "offensive" to him on its face.

Rivers had to describe why he was guilty of delivering meth.

"An individual came to my house, and I sold him meth... I think .6 grams what they estimated," Rivers said.

Bennett asked for additional bond conditions that could get him out of the agreement, however.

Young granted the extra stipulations, warned Rivers they could trip him up, and told the defendant the stiff consequences he would face if he did not follow those rules.

Under the extra conditions, the defendant until his sentencing hearing would have to not use or possess drugs or alcohol, submit to a urine test for those substances three time a week and follow a curfew between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The judge noted that in his experience those who deal in meth are often addicted to it, and he warned Rivers against using the drug.

If the defendant violates his bond conditions, such as by failing a urine test, and bond was revoked, the plea agreement would be "null and void," according to the document.

"If you violate your bond you're in a bad position because you just pleaded guilty to a 20-year felony," Young warned.

Rivers would not be able to take back his guilty plea to delivery of methamphetamine and would face sentencing without the limits imposed by the plea agreement. Under the statutory guidelines, he would face up to 20 years in prison.

Bennett reminded the judge the second charge for cooking meth is not to be dismissed until sentencing. Accordingly, if Rivers violates bond and the plea agreement is revoked, he would also have to face the second charge again, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Finally, all parties agreed to make Rivers' $50,000 bond unsecured. As such the defendant would not have to put any money up to get out of jail, but would owe the court $50,000 if he violated his bond.

Making the bond unsecured means the defendant can get out of jail easily, but if he does, he would have to follow the bond conditions.

Young warned Rivers again about being released, saying Dubois is a "small community."

Rivers said he would go home and toe the line.

"I'm not going to violate any conditions of my bond," he said.

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