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Iowa man sentenced to probation for 9 pounds of pot

 

Countless studies have demonstrated regular marijuana consumption can cause short-term memory loss.

For Brian Heasley, it's a bout of amnesia that's keeping him out of prison.

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old Iowa man was given 5 years of intensive supervised probation for being caught with 9 pounds of marijuana, a felony.

According to Nebraska sentencing guidelines, he could have been sentenced to a maximum possible prison term of 4 years.

A few days after pleading guilty to the crime in August, Heasley suffered a head injury while awaiting sentencing free on bond.

"The defendant was involved in an ATV rollover accident on Aug. 9, 2015, and sustained a moderately severe traumatic brain injury, which resulted in short-term memory loss," Heasley's attorney, Thomas Sonntag, wrote in a court filing.

The injury left Heasley unable to recollect the events in Nebraska leading to his forthcoming sentencing, Sonntag wrote.

While Heasley recovered from his injuries, the sentencing date was continued multiple times – until this week, when he appeared in Cheyenne County District Court.

"That set of facts is novel, and I'm not aware of it being presented in court in the 21 years I've been here," Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub said of the case.

At Heasley's sentencing, his wife testified about Heasley's injuries. She said while he had recently been cleared to return to work, a surgery on his ear was planned to help with his hearing.

Jon Stellar, who prosecuted the case, told the court given the defendant's medical condition, he was open to a sentence of intensive supervised probation.

Stellar said, according to the Nebraska State Troopers who arrested Heasley, he had been cooperative and took responsibility for his crime.

Before Heasley's sentencing, Stellar had also reviewed medical documents provided to him by the defense, according to Schaub.

"That information supported claims that the defendant was in an accident at that he sustained a serious head injury resulting in significant impairment of mental functioning," Schaub said. "[Stellar] conferred with the law enforcement agency involved in the stop and arrest. They too were on board with a probationary sentence."

After delivering the sentence, Cheyenne County District Court Judge Derek Weimer told Heasley he expected him to follow all the terms of probation.

"If you come back before this court, the likelihood I'll consider anything other than a prison sentence is very small," he said.

In a phone interview, Sonntag said his client's memory still had not been fully restored.

"He's been taking therapy," the attorney said.

The medical treatment Heasley can receive while out on probation is likely better than what he'd get in the prison system, Sonntag added.

Asked if he thought the punishment fit the crime, Sonntag said that wasn't his call.

"But I know from what I read in the paper and from what I see what the Legislature is doing, we have a prison system that is overfilled by 50 percent," he said. "Who do we want to put in there? That's not my call, I'm not the judge. But do we want to imprison people in Nebraska who are going to be a threat to Nebraska, or do we just want to throw everyone in that's passing through from Colorado to Pennsylvania or whatever and happen to be caught here?"

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

guest01 writes:

9 pounds of green leafy vegetation that is a legal health remedy in many jurisdictions. How much does a small bale of hay weigh? A big bottle of whiskey might weight 9 pounds. 9 pounds of legal prescription drugs is a lot. Many over the counter medicines used to be controlled by law and are now on the shelf next to preparation H. Interesting how a brain injury has saved a guy from an equally brutal justice system.

 
 
 

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