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Poplar Bluff man found guilty on meth charges
A Poplar Bluff, Mo., man faces a possible life sentence after being convicted of possessing methamphetamine with intentions of distributing it in Stoddard County.
A Butler County jury took less than an hour Thursday to convict Hershel B. Deaton, aka Hershel Huff, 57, of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession of a chemical (pseudoephedrine) with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, according to Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver.
Charged as a prior and persistent drug offender on the possession with intent to distribute charge, Oliver said, Deaton faces an enhanced punishment and sentencing was taken out of the jury's hands and given to Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Pritchett.
Oliver said Deaton, who already is on federal parole for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison to life imprisonment without the possibility of probation or parole on that charge, as well as one to seven years in prison for possessing pseudoephedrine when he is sentenced Feb. 14.
Pritchett ordered a sentencing assessment report be completed by Probation and Parole and is expected to hear recommendations from Oliver and Deaton's attorney at sentencing.
During the trial, Oliver said, the jury heard evidence surrounding an Oct. 1, 2010, incident in Bloomfield.
"This was a narcotics investigation with the Stoddard County Sheriff's Office and SEMO Drug Task Force [involving the] utilization of a confidential informant," Oliver said. "A transaction was set up to where the informant would provide Mr. Deaton with pseudoephedrine.
"In exchange for the pseudoephedrine, the CI was to receive methamphetamine."
Oliver described the case as having an "interesting wrinkle" to it involving two matching cigarette packages.
"When the defendant went to the home, the confidential informant provided him with the pseudoephedrine, and the defendant then provided [the CI] a cigarette pack," Oliver said.
Deaton, Oliver said, indicated to the CI there was a little more than a gram of methamphetamine in the cigarette pack.
When the task force officers came in to retrieve the meth after the transaction, "there was no methamphetamine in the cigarette pack," Oliver said.
The officers, he said, immediately stopped Deaton's vehicle.
"In his car was another cigarette pack, identical to the one given to the CI," Oliver said. "It was the state's theory at trial that he possessed the methamphetamine in the car, and he meant to give it to the CI, but he picked up the wrong one.
"That's why he was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute."
He also was charged with possessing the pseudoephedrine supplied by the CI, Oliver said.
"There was evidence at trial … testimony he was coming back to Poplar Bluff to manufacture that pseudoephedrine into meth," Oliver said.
The jurors, Oliver said, heard testimony from the CI, four officers and a criminologist with the Missouri State Highway Patrol's crime lab.
The defense, he said, did not call any witnesses and its "primary strategy" was calling into question the veracity of the confidential informant.
The jury, according to Oliver, was a broad cross-section of the community.
"I thought it was a very diverse jury; they all paid attention very, very well," Oliver said. "They were very thorough, I thought, in paying attention" to the case.
Oliver hopes this case, with its sentencing enhancement, sends a message to other prior and persistent drug offenders about "our position on these substances."
"Don't come to Stoddard County and peddle these poisons, especially if you're a prior and persistent offender," Oliver said.
Poplar Bluff, Mo.