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Friday, May 1, 2009

Drug dealer gets 60-year prison sentence - Yahoo Local - SunHerald.com

Drug dealer gets 60-year prison sentence

- rfitzgerald@sunherald.com

GULFPORT — Circuit Judge Jerry Terry sentenced a Gulfport man to 60 years without parole after the defendant was found guilty of selling crack cocaine to an undercover officer.

Jurors in the trial of Larry Press “Preston” Wells deliberated 17 minutes Thursday before returning the verdict in a two-day trial.

The 50-year-old was convicted of possession with intent to distribute. 

The drug sale involved less than 1/10th of a gram of crack cocaine.

Assistant District Attorney Joel Smith said Wells was prosecuted as an habitual offender on an enhanced offense.

Wells has four prior felony convictions since 1993. Three of those are for drug sales.

Habitual-offender status requires a day-for-day prison term without eligibility for early release, Smith said. 

The new drug conviction qualified for an enhanced or double penalty.

Without the double penalty, Wells faced up to 30 years in prison without early release.

Smith said Gulfport police had arrested Wells in an undercover operation targeting street-level drug dealers in the Magnolia Grove area on May 24, 2007.

The jury heard an audio recording of Wells getting in an unmarked car with an undercover officer, leaving the vehicle and returning with “a 40,” street slang for $40 in crack.

“The jury could hear the defendant say, ‘you’ve got to take a hit off of this crack pipe before I give you the cocaine,’ Smith said. “The officer refused the request and gave a pre-determined arrest signal that went out over the audio wire.”

Wells was convicted of forgery in 1993. He was convicted of a drug sale in 1993 and convicted on two drug sales in 2000, Smith said.

Drug dealer gets 60-year prison sentence - Yahoo Local - SunHerald.com

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