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Man sentenced to state prison on cocaine distribution charge

July 06, 2010|By DON AINES

A Brooklyn, N.Y., man convicted by a jury in April of possession with intent to distribute cocaine resulting from a traffic stop on Interstate 81 was sentenced Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to 15 years in state prison.

Judge John H. McDowell sentenced Garette Edgar Kearse to 15 years, but suspended six years of the sentence. Because Kearse was in possession of more than 28 grams of cocaine, Robert Veil, the supervising state's attorney for the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, argued that Kearse's sentence should include having to serve five years without being eligible for parole. McDowell made that part of the sentence.

Although court records list his address as Brooklyn, defense attorney Robin Ficker said Kearse was living in Martinsburg, W.Va., and working as a carpenter at the time of his arrest on Oct. 1, 2009.

Kearse was driving a rented car south on I-81 at 1:12 a.m. when he was pulled over by a Maryland State Police trooper for driving 67 mph in a 60-mph zone and for having a license tag light out, according to the statement of probable cause. There were two other men in the vehicle with Kearse, the statement said.

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A police dog was brought in to scan the car and alerted police to the possibility of drugs in the vehicle, the statement of probable cause said. Police found 115.6 grams of crack cocaine under the spare tire in the trunk.

The amount of drugs found was almost a quarter pound, McDowell noted during Tuesday's sentencing.

Ficker argued at Kearse's trial that there was no forensic evidence, such as fingerprints, tying Kearse to the drugs and that few people renting a car check it for contraband. He also told the jury that the only personal belongings in the truck belonged to another occupant.

The jury also found Kearse guilty of possession of narcotics and possession with intent to distribute narcotics. McDowell merged those convictions with the most serious count of possession with intent to distribute a large amount of cocaine.

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