Family and friends were on hand when Shawn Anthony Weddle, 38, Brazil, and defense attorney Laura Paul, appeared before Clay Superior Court Judge Blaine Akers for a sentencing hearing.
Originally charged with two counts of class B felony dealing in methamphetamine and three separate class D felony charges, one for possession of methamphetamine and two for maintaining a common nuisance on May 12, 2009, Weddle entered into a negotiated plea agreement with the Clay County Prosecutor's Office earlier this year.
On March 15, Weddle agreed to plead guilty to a class B felony dealing in methamphetamine, while the state agreed to dismiss the four remaining charges. Three other cases involving petition to revoke probation and probation violation charges were also dismissed as part of the agreement. No sentence recommendation was negotiated, leaving the decision in the judge's hands.
The State of Indiana provides a "minimum to maximum range" in sentencing recommendations to help judges determine the amount of time an offender could potentially serve. A person convicted of a class B felony could be incarcerated at the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) for 6-20 years.
During Wednesday's hearing, the state and defense were allowed to present evidence regarding the mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the case before Akers ordered a sentence in the matter.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Kim Jackson attempted to enter testimony from the Clay County Sheriff's Department investigator involved in the case, the court-appointed substance abuse counselor and a probation officer. However, Akers believed the amount of information in the case file, sentencing recommendation, voluntary statements and affidavits Paul provided (in which Weddle admitted his guilt and that he previously manipulated the system) were enough to confirm aggravating circumstances.
Paul presented one witness on Weddle's behalf.
An ordained minister, who provides faith-based counseling as part of the Celebrate Recovery program, has been working with Weddle during his 359 days of incarceration at the Clay County Justice Center. The minister testified he felt Weddle was sincere and taking personal responsibility for his actions while attempting to atone for the pain he has caused others.
While asking for leniency, Paul told Akers the IDOC is overpopulated and that she didn't know what spending 20 years incarcerated would accomplish because, "(Weddle) is worth another chance."
Citing Weddle's extensive criminal history, Jackson requested the maximum sentence, 20 years.
After reading portions of Weddle's criminal history that started when he was a juvenile and culminated in a police chase through Brazil that ended in Babe Wheeler Park on May 12, 2009, Akers said it was "obviously enough" to prove aggravating circumstances.
However, Akers said he wanted to be fair and would consider the various certificates from several faith-based organizations/counselors Weddle had acquired.
Akers has supported offenders utilizing transitional treatment programs and other forms of alternative programs, when qualified, in the past.
"We know each other," Akers told Weddle. "But I think this is the first time you've manned up and taken responsibility. I believe you want to change your life. I want you to and so does your family, who is here to support you."
However, a gasp filled the courtroom when Akers then announced Weddle would be sentenced to 20 years incarceration at the IDOC, with 15 to be fully executed and the remaining five years on home detention. Weddle was allowed time served for the 359 days at the CCJC and good time credit, if earned.
A $200 civil judgment was also entered against Weddle on behalf of a victim in the matter.
Akers accepted Weddle's tearful request to be sent to a prison facility with a faith-based substance abuse program.
Weddle told the court he wanted to also be able to take full advantage of education programs while incarcerated.
"Consider this to be an opportunity that's not available here. You might hate me now, but I want things to work out for you," Akers said. "I believe you are on the right path to change your life. Come out with a changed heart, that's the key to success."
Weddle was remanded into the custody of the Clay County Sheriff's Department for classification and commitment to the IDOC.
The second suspect arrested with Weddle has also entered into a plea agreement for his alleged involvement in the May 12, 2009.
The state agreed to dismiss a class C felony charge of possession of methamphetamine, two counts of possession of controlled substance and one class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.
Grigsby was sentenced to the IDOC for 12 years. Ten years were ordered to be fully executed, with two years suspended, and Grigsby will be placed on probation for two years. He was fined $10 and court costs of $164.
Grigsby is currently in the custody of the IDOC.