Almost two years ago, law enforcement officers from 14 agencies came together on Jan. 14, 2011 to make the largest drug bust in Oklahoma history. The effort resulted in the arrest and convictions of more than 69 different individuals.
The Claremore Police Department worked for more than five months on the investigation.
Only 18 percent of those convicted were sentenced to prison, while 75 percent received probation.
The long-term picture and impact of this historic bust has many local law enforcement agencies taking a closer look at the impact of prosecution and sentencing.
“It is important the we send a strong message to those persons that were arrested for these types of crimes, that there is a stiff penalty associated with it,” said Claremore Police Chief Stan Brown.
Brown explained that these types of drug distributors are the face of the drug climate in Rogers County.
Then newly elected District Attorney Janice Steidley oversaw the legal process for the historic drug bust.
Steidley’s office filed charges ranging from distribution of a controlled substance, selling precursor to manufacture, possession, conspiracy to deliver and possession with the intent to distribute.
The drug bust included 76 defendants, of those three fugitives remain; Carlos Thompson, Deborah Johnson and Gary Mohr, Sr. who are still at large.
Two cases are pending and two cases were dismissed by the District Attorney.
Of the remaining 69 defendants, 47 reached plea agreements with the District Attorney.
All of the individuals arrested were charged with felonies however, 22 recieved a deferred sentence. One charge was lowered during a plea agreement to a misdemeanor.
A deferred sentence is not a conviction and once the individual completes probation no further action is taken against them.
Essentially, there is no finding of guilt and it serves as a mild form of probation.
Three individuals were sentenced to boot camp, a regimented inmate program for males, servicing primarily younger offenders.
Probation with a deferred or suspended sentence was given to 33 offenders which entered into a plea agreement.
Twelve of the 33 individuals that received probation were sentenced to drug court instead of a deferred or suspended sentence.
Of the individuals that received a plea bargain only 10 or 30 percent, were sentenced to prison with the length of time varying between five to 15 years.
Twenty-two of the defendants decided not to plea bargain with the District Attorney and went before Judge Dwayne Steidley.
Of those defendants one or 3 percent went to prison and 19 received probation.
The efforts of law enforcement officers from 14 agencies resulted in numerous convictions, however the long-term impact on drug traffic has yet to be determined.
The convictions carried a minimal penalty, according to some officials.
Many of the criminals that were sent to prison, few will actually complete their sentence.
Of the 13 individuals sentenced to prison, seven will be up for parole in 2013 and two have already been released.
William Bushyhead was sentenced for 15 years for distribution, yet was released after serving only nine months. Judge Steidley modified his sentence after conducting a judicial review.
A judicial review is designed to give individuals the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to rejoin society.
Justin Rayl was released last week from the Department of Corrections. Rayl was sentenced to five years; he served less than two years.
Of the remaining 11 individuals serving prison time, all could be released by parole as early as July of 2014.
The legal system currently has numerous options to modify the sentence or plea bargain with individuals to limit the time served.
The 13 individuals that were sent to prison are only a small percentage of the total arrested.
Prosecution efforts left 54 of those arrested serving little to no jail time.
Probation for many of those offenders continues and some have received treatment through the Rogers County Drug Court program.
The drug court program is considered to be an asset to the county, by many law enforcement officers.
Twelve of the individuals involved in the drug bust entered drug court, which is currently managed by Judge Sheila Condren.
The court serves as a way to get treatment to those who need it, according to Condren.
“Not every case is the same,” Condren said.
There is a difference between drug addiction and those who are selling or manufacturing drugs for profit, according to Condren.