EATON — A Richmond man was sentenced to five years of imprisonment on drug charges in Preble County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, Feb. 19. Judge Stephen R. Bruns presided.
Bert S. Watkins, 41, appeared for sentencing after entering a plea of no contest on charges of possession of cocaine, a first-degree felony. Watkins was sentenced to 18 months of incarceration in July 2019 on charges of aggravated assault.
As previously reported in The Register-Herald, Watkins has accused prosecutors of failing to properly examine evidence in his case. Watkins claims that, because the drugs he was carrying when he was arrested in New Paris in April 2019 were “cut” with another substance, there should be tests done to determine precisely how much actual cocaine was present in the mixture.
That issue is irrelevant, however, according to Preble County Prosecuting Attorney Martin Votel.
“If you’re caught with one teaspoon of cocaine mixed with a pound of flour, you’ve got a pound of cocaine,” Votel said when interviewed about the case last year.
Watkins has parted company with numerous court-appointed attorneys over the past 16 months, claiming they had pressured him to accept a plea bargain on the drug charge rather than proceed to trial.
“I feel like they just want me to sign a plea bargain and go to jail. I keep giving them my evidence and they disregard it,” Watkins said at a previous hearing, apparently referring to his requests for the contents of the drug mixture to be tested.
Watkins’ current attorney, Daniel O’Brien, asked the court for leniency on his client’s behalf on Wednesday, citing that the majority of his previous run-ins with the law took place years in the past.
“Everything on his record is at least ten years old, with the exception of the assault charge,” O’Brien said. “It’s a stretch to charge this as a first-degree felony. I’d appreciate the court taking a long, hard look at this matter.”
O’Brien asked for any prison sentence imposed to be served concurrent with his sentence on the assault charge, and requested that mandatory fines associated with the drug conviction be waived, as he claimed his client is indigent.
“He has a drug habit,” O’Brien said of the narcotics found in his client’s possession. “He was not selling.”
For his own part, Watkins offered an apology for his previous behavior.
“Respectfully, I just want to apologize for the trouble I’ve caused the court,” Watkins said.
Judge Bruns sentenced Watkins to five years of incarceration, to be served concurrent with his sentence on the previous charge. Bruns also found the defendant indigent and waived the applicable mandatory fines.
Also in court on Wednesday, Feb. 19:
Roy Preston, 49, of Eaton, was sentenced to community control on charges of aggravated possession of drugs and illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia. Preston was ordered to attend inpatient substance abuse treatment as part of the terms of his probation.
Preston’s attorney, Steven Van Zant, asked for a short furlough to allow his client to retrieve some belongings from a storage unit before being taken into custody, but Judge Bruns proved less than amenable to the request.
“It may be that Mr. Preston is going to pay for the sins of others, but I’ve been burned the few times I’ve granted that sort of request,” Bruns said.
Tammy N. Dorr, 32, of Eaton, was sentenced to community control on charges of aggravated possession of drugs and possession of drug abuse instruments.
Dorr was also ordered to attend inpatient substance abuse treatment, but asked to be allowed to seek medical treatment for a bloodborne infection before being taken into custody, citing concerns about the quality of treatment available at the Preble County Jail. Judge Bruns denied the request.