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Man convicted of selling crack cocaine sentenced to 10 years

January 17, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Circuit Court jury Tuesday convicted a Hagerstown man of selling crack cocaine a short distance from the Hagerstown courthouse where the trial was held.

Gregory Harris, 45, was found guilty of distribution of cocaine and possession of cocaine. Judge Donald E. Beachley sentenced Harris to 10 years in state prison without parole, according to Robert Veil, the supervising state’s attorney for the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

“I think it’s an adequate sentence,” Veil said.

Harris had previous criminal convictions, some of them drug-related, he said.

Harris, whom court records listed as living in a homeless shelter at the time of his arrest, was charged with selling crack cocaine to the informant on West Washington Street on the evening of July 21, Veil told the jury. Harris was arrested as he got out of the informant’s vehicle, Veil said in his closing arguments.

Two marked $20 bills given to the informant to buy the drugs were found on Harris when he was arrested, Veil told the jury.

“This happened right outside the courthouse,” task force Agent Frank Toston testified during the trial.

The paid informant was wearing a electronic-monitoring device, and the conversation between the informant and Harris was recorded in the minutes before he was arrested. The recording was played for the jury.

Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa told the jury in her closing arguments that police did not immediately take the suspected cocaine from the informant after Harris’s arrest. She also questioned the thoroughness of the police search of the informant and his vehicle before he was sent out to find street-level dealers.

“Do you know how many places there are to secrete drugs on your body?” Villa asked the jury.

The informant, who has been used by the task force for more than a decade, had eight minutes from the time of Harris’s arrest to his arrival at the Hagerstown Police Department during which he was unsupervised and driving his own car, Villa told the jury.

There was no proof that what Harris gave the informant in the car was the cocaine the informant later handed over to police, she told the jury.

“He’s not a saint,” Veil told the jury, acknowledging that the informant did not report the money he received from police as income on his taxes.

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