dealer found guilty
It took a jury less than an hour
to convict Steven L. Cotton, 39 of University Park, IL, on a felony
drug charge that could land him in prison for up to 50 years.
According to information from Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel,
Cotton was found guilty of Possession with Intent to Deliver Heroin
in Excess of Three Grams, which is a Class A Felony.
Testimony heard at the two-day trial held in Ripley County Circuit
Court, stated that Cotton had 98.6 grams of heroin that has a
street value of about $10,000, when he was stopped in May of this
year for a minor traffic infraction by ISP Trooper Jim Wells.
Further investigation revealed four baggies of a brown rock-like
substance - which was confirmed as being heroin. The state police
laboratory presented evidence at the trial from a forensic scientist
who weighed and tested the substance in the baggies, confirming
the presence of heroin and that it weighed 98.6 grams. Evidence
was presented at the trial that Cotton was returning to the Chicago
area from Newport, KY, where he had already sold about 50 grams
of heroin. The initial arrest took place May 25, 2009.
Although Cottons attorney argued that his client was merely
in possession of the heroin and was not intending to deliver it,
the jury believed testimony from an undercover detective. He said
separate baggies is not consistent with personal use but more
consistent with dealing the drug. The detective went on to say
that the large quantity was not consistent with personal use either,
and was more consistent with dealing. The detectives testimony
was based on over 500 undercover buys in the 12 plus years he
has been with the Indiana State Police in this capacity.
The investigation that began as a routine traffic stop was taken
to a new level that produced evidence at the trial, which was
not attended by Cotton. For only the second time in his 11 years
as Prosecuting Attorney for Ripley County, Ric Hertel tried the
defendant In Absentia - meaning he was not present for any of
According to Prosecutor Hertel, Cotton had been released earlier
in December pursuant to a criminal rule that requires incarcerated
defendants be brought to trial within 180 days. The court had
originally scheduled Cottons trial outside of this time
frame. In the June 4, 2009 issue of The Versailles Republican
it noted the trial had been set for December 15. While this has
not been a past problem for the court, the prosecutor said, it
is still concerning.
The prosecutor asked and was granted a warrant to be issued for
Cottons failure to appear.
Hertel implored the jury to not take the easy way out, but rather
to convict the defendant of the serious offense of possession
with intent to deliver rather than the defenses plea that
his client was merely in possession. Decisions like this
are difficult, the prosecutor noted, thanking the jury for
their service especially taking time away from their lives during
this busy time of the year. Without the willingness of jurors
like these to give of their time, the criminal justice system
would fail, he noted.
No sentencing date has been set by the court, but Cotton faces
a range of imprisonment of 20-50 years on the conviction.