A man whom a defense attorney called a “star witness” in an overdose death trial was sentenced to seven years in prison for a drug bust spawning from that case’s investigation.
In a police probe of Christian Ellis’ death, officers followed Justin Gates, 36, on a routine trip to Baltimore where he returned with a large amount of heroin capsules, which he testified in another case was mostly for himself and his then-wife.
Gates later pleaded guilty to possession of the drug with intent to distribute.
At Gates’ sentencing hearing, State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) recommended the bottom of the sentencing guidelines offered by a presentence investigation “as a result of certain services performed for the state,” referencing testimony in a trial last month when prosecutors sought to establish that Gates’ friend, Andrew Duncanson, had known the capsules contained fentanyl.
Duncanson was acquitted of all counts in that case later that day.
Gates’ attorney, William H. Cook, told the judge Gates is a single father of three, living in Delaware, and is a “hard-working young man.”
His parents, also testifying, said Gates is a “completely changed man” since going through drug treatment following his arrest.
St. Mary’s Circuit Judge Michael J. Stamm sentenced Gates to seven years, the minimum stint under the sentencing guidelines, noting his “record is horrific.”
“But for the fact that you helped the state so much, I would be looking at the top of the guidelines,” he said.
Man sentenced for assault on 18-year-old pregnant woman
In a separate matter on Wednesday’s round of sentencing hearings, Tevin Greer, 26, was sentenced to an active total of 18 months for an August assault which injured an 18-year-old pregnant woman.
In that case, Greer had pleaded guilty to second-degree assault charges alleging he and a large group of people, including two codefendants, had followed Blake Howard to her apartment, where she resided with Carmen Hancock, and a physical altercation ensued. Blake Howard was 11 weeks pregnant at the time, according to Deputy State’s Attorney Jaymi Sterling, who recommended a sentence above the sentencing guidelines.
One codefendant, Cassidy Howard, who was allegedly the source of the fight, took an Alford plea to second-degree assault and was sentenced to 18 months suspended to 60 days and two years of supervised probation in district court last October. Another, Erin Battle, took an Alford plea to conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and was granted three years of unsupervised probation before judgement. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt, but an admission prosecutors have sufficient evidence to support a charge.
Greer and his family members said at his sentencing hearing that he had gone with Cassidy Howard to the apartment not to start an altercation, but to settle a dispute between the two.
Stamm said Greer did not take an Alford plea.
“You didn’t do that, you stood in front of me and admitted you did this,” the judge said.
Stamm sentenced Greer to five years, suspended to 18 months in the St. Mary’s detention center and five years of supervised probation.