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No. 4 Story of the Year: County Attorney Seeks Maximum Sentence for Defendants in IGH Drug Bust

Three Dakota County residents were arrested in a 2011 drug bust that netted 391 pounds of marijuana.

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As the end of the year approaches, Patch recaps the biggest stories of 2012—both in terms of pageviews and impact on the Inver Grove Heights community. The original article posted on April 10, 2012.

Other Story of the Year posts:
• No. 5 Story of the Year: Are You in Favor of a Gun Safety Program Inside City Limits?
• No. 6 Story of the Year: Former Simley Student Teacher Accused of Sending Naked Pic to Student
• No. 7 Story of the Year: ISD 199 Technology Levy Defeated
• No. 8 Story of the Year: Simley Student Writes One Act Play
• • No. 10 Story of the Year: Olsons' is the Greatest Love Story in Inver Grove Heights

 

ORIGINAL POST: Assistant Dakota County Attorney Kevin Golden filed a Notice of Intent Monday afternoon seeking the maximum statutory sentence for three Dakota County residents arrested in a November drug bust that netted 391 pounds of marijuana. 

Inver Grove Heights residents Scott Bradley Cunningham, 42, and Brian Lee Speldrick, 52, alongside Rosemount's Holly Joann Swenson, 28, and Jerilyn Reis, 41, of Kiester (Minn.) were all charged with first-degree drug possession with intent to sell and first-degree drug possession.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

In a two-page motion, Golden cited "severe aggravating factors" as justification for asking for an upward departure from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, should the trio be convicted of the charges against them. 

A portion of Golden's notice for each of the defendants read: 

The offense is a major controlled substance offense under circumstances far more onerous that the usual offense ... the quantity involved (391) pounds of marijuana, almost eight times the amount necessary for a First Degree Controlled Substance, exceeding even the largest amounts encountered in large scale sales in Dakota County; the high value, approximately $902,000, demonstrates that the defendant(s) occupied a high position in the drug distribution hierarchy; the grow operation and hidden storage area demonstrates a higher degree of sophistication; and the offense covered a broad geographical area within Minnesota. 

"Substantial and compelling" reasons can normally justify a sentencing court's upward departure up to double the presumptive sentence. Even a single aggravating factor can justify such a departure. And in cases such as this, in which there are "severe aggravating factors" a departure up to the statutory maximum is permissible. 

Swenson's attorney Steven Tallen filed a motion Apr. 6 asking for a dismissal of all charges against his client based on the inability of prosecutors to provide complete discovery.

A portion of Tallen's motion read: 

The requested discovery, which is not privileged information, is essential to the proper preparation of the defense in this case, and there have been at least two requests for the production of this evidence, which is in the hands of the prosecuting attorney and/or its police officers. 

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