Prosecutor, probation officer disagree on sentencing in drug case

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Greenfield Reporter on 4/24/2019

HANCOCK COUNTY — If the sentencing is handed down the way deputy prosecutor David Thornburg believes it should be, a couple who were involved in a drug overdose in a Greenfield motel room will face jail time.

Grant Hoefener, 33, Indianapolis, and his wife, Crystal Lee, 28, Anderson, were scheduled to be sentenced on multiple felony drug charges Tuesday.

However, their Indianapolis attorneys asked for and received a continuance from Judge Scott Sirk in Hancock Circuit Court. The extra 30 days will allow the couple to search for a place to live in Hancock County, where they hope they’ll be able to serve home detention rather than go to jail.

The case brings up a rare sentencing instance in which prosecutors disagree with the county probation department on the appropriate sentence for serious drug crimes. It’s also a microcosm of the debate over how drug defendants should be treated: Should they always go to prison for their crimes, or can they sometimes be put in a place where they can get more effective treatment?

Thornburg believes the severity of the drug charges in this case dictates the couple should be sent to prison. Probation officer Mary Kay Dobbs, who handled the pre-sentence investigation, is recommending home detention.

Dobbs agrees that on paper, both defendants are strong candidates to be sent to the Indiana Department of Correction. But she has found over the past two years, as the cases were pending, both defendants have taken steps to make their lives better, something the prosecution isn’t buying.

“I get it,” Thornburg said. “They’ve cleaned themselves up since they were arrested on several crimes, but I still have to make my recommendation of punishment than rehabilitation.”

In her role as a probation officer, Dobbs must look not only at the crime and the punishment recommendation, but also into the defendants’ personal past. Her research helps to determine how a defendant landed where they are, and whether they’re a good candidate to offend again.

The fact Hoefener has stayed clean for nearly two years, passing all of his drug tests and completing the first phase of rehabilitation is positive, Dobbs said.

However, Dobbs did say in her report that she doesn’t know whether Hoefener has internalized his mistakes or if he’s just playing a role to get through sentencing.

“That’s a legitimate point,” Thornburg said. “You have to wonder is he just gaming the system or is he being real? That’s got to be taken into consideration.”

Hoefener left court Tuesday before a reporter could catch up with him. His attorneys did not return a call seeking comment.

Dobbs also feels Lee should not face prison time due to the fact she doesn’t have a criminal past.

“I have a real hard time recommending prison for her, if I’m not going to recommend it for him,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs believes the couple became involved in illegal drugs as a way to make money and got hooked.

In October 2017, Hoefener almost died from a drug overdose. Lee, who was then his girlfriend, called 911 to report Hoefener was unresponsive and turning blue. When police arrived at the motel where they were staying, they discovered the room was littered with illegal drugs and paraphernalia.

Officers found marijuana, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and an assortment of prescription pills inside the motel room, investigators said in their report. They also found drug paraphernalia, cash and a pistol, leading them to believe Hoefener might have been selling illegal substances prior to his overdose.

Hoefener was originally charged with multiple felonies including a Level 2 felony charge for dealing methamphetamine and a Level 3 felony charge of possession of methamphetamine.

Lee was originally facing several counts, including a Level 3 charge of possession of methamphetamine, two lesser felonies and six misdemeanor charges.

Both have since entered into a plea agreement in which Lee will plead guilty to one Level 3 felony charge of possession of methamphetamine; a Level 6 felony charge of possession of a narcotic drug; and possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor. The agreement calls for a nine-year sentence, with Thornburg asking for three years to be spent in prison.

Hoefener will plead guilty to one Level 5 felony charge of possession of methamphetamine and three Level 6 felony charges of possession of a controlled substance, and maintaining a common nuisance. His sentence calls for six years, with Thornburg asking for five years in prison.

Judge Sirk is scheduled to hear from both sides and hand down the sentences at the end of May.