Drug ringleaders get lengthy sentences|
Friday, May 25, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The three defendants in the Operation Drive-Thru trial received long prison sentences from President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman at their sentencing hearing held yesterday at the Clearfield County Courthouse.
Last February, Michael Styers, 54, of Mercer, Charles Gearhart, 41, of Hyde/Woodland, and Maharaji "Bean" Hemingway, 36, of Philadelphia were convicted of numerous drug charges for operating an illegal cocaine and drug ring in Clearfield County.
According to testimony at the trial, from January 2005 through June 2007, the three men operated a cocaine and drug ring in Clearfield.
Styers was the ringleader of the organization and sold drugs out of his home on South Fifth Street in downtown Clearfield, Gearhart was his second in command and sold drugs at his trailer in Hyde, often selling them out of a window, and Hemingway supplied them with the cocaine from the Philadelphia area.
The three defendants were convicted on a long list of charges, and each will serve at least a decade in prison. Ammerman sentenced Styers to a minimum sentence of 22 years, Hemingway, 17 years; and Gearhart, 11 years.
However, Ammerman also made Styers' sentence consecutive to whatever prison term he is currently serving on other previous convictions.
On the most serious charges, Ammerman sentenced Hemingway to 3-6 years on the first charge of delivery of a controlled substance, and 7-10 years each on the second and third charge of delivery of a controlled substance, with the terms to be served consecutively. He was also fined $15,000 on the first count and $50,000 each on the second two counts.
On the list of other charges of which Hemingway was convicted, the terms are to run concurrently.
Gearhart was sentenced to 4-8 years and fined $25,000 on the first the charge of possession with intent to deliver, and 7-10 years and fined $25,000 on the second charge of possession with intent to deliver with the terms to be served consecutively. On the list of other charges in which Gearhart was convicted, the terms are to be served concurrently.
Styers was sentenced to 7-14 years and fined $50,000 on the first count of possession with intent to deliver, 5-10 years on the second charge of possession with intent to deliver and fined $30,000, he was sentenced to 3-6 years and fined $10,000 on the delivery of a controlled substance charge, 5-10 years for the criminal conspiracy charge and 2-4 years for another possession with intent to deliver charge with the terms to be served consecutively. On all the other charges on which he was convicted, the terms are to serve concurrently.
During the hearing, Dave Gorman, senior deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth, asked the court to sentence Styers to life in prison saying rehabilitation is irrelevant in his case because he has a long criminal record and noted he continued to sell drugs while serving in a halfway house when sentenced on a previous conviction.
Gorman also said Styers sold large quantities of cocaine in Clearfield County over a long period of time with no regard to the consequences to the people to whom he was selling.
However, Styers' attorney, Benjamin Vrobel of Clarion, asked the all-star cast of witnesses to testify against his client at trial.
During the trial, Vrobel attacked the credibility of many of the prosecution's witnesses calling them drug addicts, liars and thieves.
Styers also gave a brief statement to the court saying he has accepted responsibility for his actions.
Hemingway also made a statement asking the court for leniency so he could get back to his family.
Gearhart declined comment.
During sentencing Ammerman called Styers a "career criminal" and said the court is giving him a long prison sentence to protect the public and keep him off the streets.
Following the hearing, when asked by The Progress, Gorman said he was pleased with the sentences saying all received significant time in prison and said Styers will likely spend the rest of his life in jail because he still has to complete his prison sentence for previous offenses. Because he broke his parole on his previous sentence, Gorman said Styers will have to go before the parole board, which will likely give him the maximum term.
"This sends a message from the courts and law enforcement to those who bring and sell drugs into Clearfield County," Gorman said.
Gorman also thanked local law enforcement personnel and the Clearfield County Sheriff's Department for all the hard work they put into the case.
Following sentencing Vrobel asked if he could be excused from being Styers' counsel during the appeals process saying he is switching away from criminal law and focusing on the oil and gas industry. When he agreed to take the case he didn't think it would last as long as it did.
The charges were originally filed back in 2008 and the trial was originally scheduled to be held in 2009 but was delayed due to legal procedures and appeals.
However, because the defendants only have 10 days to file their appeals, Ammerman said there is not enough time for the courts to appoint Styers a new attorney and instead recommended Vrobel file a motion to be released as Styers' attorney when he files his appeal.
Hemingway's attorney, Michael Marshall of State College, and Gearhart's attorney, Gary Knaresboro, said they would represent their clients during the appeals process.