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Hagerstown man gets 5 years for selling cocaine, stolen handgun and fleeing authorities

Manuel Ernesto Watson entered Alford pleas to charges of distribution of cocaine, having a firearm in commission of a drug crime and resisting arrest

June 08, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown man charged with selling cocaine and a stolen handgun, and then ramming an armored police vehicle in an attempt to escape authorities, was sentenced Thursday to a minimum of five years in state prison.

After accepting a plea agreement in Washington County Circuit Court, Manuel Ernesto Watson, 21, of 411 N. Mulberry St. entered Alford pleas to charges of distribution of cocaine, having a firearm in the commission of a drug crime and resisting arrest.

An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt, but acknowledgment by a defendant that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. sentenced Watson to 16 years in prison, suspending all but the five years he must serve without parole.

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Watson balked at pleading guilty to the charges, and Long allowed him to enter the Alford pleas. He then objected to the mandatory minimum of five years.

“That offense is hindering me from getting any good time” toward an earlier release, Watson said. “I just feel that’s not right.”

Watson also told Long that the gun was “inoperable” and “wasn’t even in my possession.”

Long refused when Watson asked if he could change his plea to one of the other remaining 20 counts against him. Those were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

“I can’t change what just happened,” Long told him.

On Nov. 10, 2011, an informant with the Washington County Narcotics Task Force arranged to meet Watson at the Motel 6 on Massey Boulevard to buy cocaine and the gun, according to the statement of probable cause.

The informant was equipped with a video-recording device, the charging documents said.

Watson went to the informant’s room, selling the person $200 worth of cocaine. Watson then returned to his vehicle, came back with a handgun wrapped in a shirt and sold it to the informant for another $300, the documents said.

The county Special Operations Team had been called in to assist in arresting Watson and maneuvered its BearCat armored vehicle toward his car as he tried to drive away, the documents said.

Watson rammed the BearCat and then drove in reverse until hitting a parked vehicle, Assistant State’s Attorney Viki Pauler told Long.

Officers had to smash the driver’s side window of his car, drag Watson out and used a stun gun to subdue him, Pauler said.

Public Defender Eric Reed told Long that the .22-caliber pistol had no ammunition, and a broken or missing part left it inoperable.

The pistol was reported stolen in Frederick County in 2010, the documents said.

Additional cocaine was found in Watson’s car, along with a rifle. A search of Watson also turned up marijuana and more than $2,400 in cash, including the money used to buy the cocaine and gun, the documents said.

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