36 months for heroin dealing while on parole

A Belpre man who pleaded guilty in March to two counts of drug trafficking was sentenced to 36 consecutive months in jail in Washington County Common Pleas Court Friday morning.

Justin A. Tucker, 31, of 700 Barclay St. Lot 5, was sentenced for two felony counts of trafficking heroin that occurred while he was on parole: one a fourth-degree felony and the other a third-degree felony.

Tucker’s attorney, George Cosenza, asked for a continuance, following the receipt of medical documents that could get Tucker into SEPTA. Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider was opposed, saying that it was understood Tucker might not be immediately put into the program.

“SEPTA can decide whether or not he’s eligible,” Schneider said.

Judge Ed Lane said he was in agreement not to continue the proceedings.

“(Tucker) went through a public defender at a cost to the county,” Lane said, adding that Tucker just recently put attorney Cosenza on retainer. “He wants me to enable him to continue with his addiction.”

The third-degree felony which occurred during an Oct. 4, 2011 traffic stop, warranted 30 months in prison. Schneider said the charge was originally a second-degree felony where Tucker was stopped by the Major Crimes Task Force with more than 11 grams of heroin.

“(Tucker and his girlfriend) were stopped coming back from Columbus,” Schneider said. “He was not arrested (at that time). (His girlfriend) later said (the heroin and cocaine found) were his.”

A secondary charge was a fifth-degree felony count of possession of cocaine.

The fourth-degree felony warranted an extra six-month sentence.

“In November 2012, (Tucker participated) in the sale of heroin at his home in Belpre,” Schneider said. “It was close to five doses of heroin.”

Schneider said at that time, Tucker was also charged with a third-degree felony count of complicity in tampering with evidence for reportedly providing a friend on probation with a clean urine sample.

Schneider said as a part of Tucker’s plea deal, his charges had been reduced and a few dismissed.

“He pleaded to trafficking heroin, which was reduced (from a second-degree felony) to a third-degree felony,” Schneider said. “In the other case, we dismissed a tampering with evidence charge and he plead guilty to (another) charge of trafficking heroin, a fourth-degree felony.”

Schneider said Tucker has prior convictions and has been in and out of the prison system for years, starting with a juvenile record in the mid-1990s.

Despite this, Tucker made a statement to the court asking for leniency.

He said he completed 18 months of his three-year parole successfully before he injured his back.

I got started on medications and that started the old behaviors,” he said. “I want to change my life, I want to do good. I have a good support system and my fiancee is pregnant…I want to be a business owner or entrepreneur when I get out…I’m going to get a financial advisor so I can do something with my life.”

Tucker said a settlement from his back injury will enable him to be a business owner and that he wants to do so out of the area.

“Being a recovering addict, it’s hard to make it,” he said. “Washington County, it’s always been a downfall of mine because of old friends. I want to relocate one day and start new. I want to make money the legal way.”

Lane said though Tucker has remorse for his actions, his actions speak loudly, especially his asking for a continuance.

“You’ve done a lot of things in your life that are not productive,” he said. “I do not believe that you are a fundamentally bad person. You’ve played this court. You’re not getting off to a good start with me…I would like for you to turn your life around. You’re not doing it for me; you’re doing it for yourself.”