Wheelchair-bound defendant handed 4-year prison term
A wheelchair-confined Charles City man, who authorities claim allowed his house to become a headquarters of sorts for dealers in the county’s crack cocaine trade, has a four-year active prison sentence to serve.
Danny C. Cotman, 54, of 8200 Little Elam Road, pleaded guilty in January under terms of a plea deal to three counts of crack cocaine distribution. Last Friday during sentencing in Charles City Circuit Court, Judge Thomas B. Hoover imposed 20 years on each charge, suspending all but four for the next 20 years.
Originally, Cotman had been charged with 13 distribution counts and seven counts of conspiracy to distribute after being arrested in last year’s Operation Happy Holidays drug sweep. Seventeen of the 20 charges were dropped under plea deal terms.
During a Jan. 30 trial, prosecutor Rob Tyler labeled Cotman’s home as an open-air drug market. He described the defendant as a crack user without money who opened his home to dealers in order to feed his habit.
At last week’s sentencing, defense attorney Clay Blanton pointed out that his client is confined to a wheelchair as a result of an auto accident. Cotman’s addiction stems from the accident, and he requires round the clock care, thus he is not the typical individual who comes before the court facing prison time, Blanton argued.
“He did violate the law in order to make himself feel better,” Blanton told the court.
But Tyler told the judge that more than half of the controlled buys made by undercover informants working with the Happy Holidays investigation occurred at Cotman’s house.
Hoover noted the activity at Cotman’s residence in pronouncing sentence.
“Mr. Cotman is a major dealer with multiple sales he directly took part in and other sales took place at his house,” the judge said.
Three more defendants, all Charles City residents, caught up in the Happy Holidays sweep appeared last Friday in court for sentencing.
Carneal Coselle Crewe, 35, of 11900 Green Oak Road, was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but one year, three months suspended for the next 20 years. Crewe entered an Alford plea of guilty, meaning he does not admit guilt but stipulates evidence would be sufficient for conviction, to one crack cocaine distribution count during a Jan. 9 trial.
Crewe made a $30 sale to an informant at Danny Cotman’s house last May 23. In imposing sentence, Hoover cited the defendant’s long criminal record and denied a request by defense attorney Katherine Giannasi to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.
“There’s no way I’m going to reduce this to a misdemeanor with his record and age. This is not simple possession,” Hoover said.
Antonio D. Black, 25, of 7300 Courthouse Road, received a one-year active prison term. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 20 to one count of crack cocaine distribution in connection with a $30 sale made to informants last Aug. 14. As part of a plea deal, a second count was dropped.
Hoover imposed 20 years with all but the one year suspended for the next 20 years.
The third defendant, Timothy Little Jr., 23, of 12755 Tyler’s Ridge Court, received a six-month active sentence for a reduced charge of distribution of Ecstasy as an accommodation, meaning Little received no profit or personal gain.
A plea deal reached on Jan. 9 added the accommodation label to the original charge of felony distribution. Little sold four Ecstasy tablets for $80 to an informant last Aug. 7.
At last week’s sentencing, Hoover followed terms of the plea deal, which called for no more than six months active time. The judge imposed five years with all but the six months suspended for the next 20 years.
In a case unrelated to the Happy Holidays sweep, a Charles City man entered an Alford plea of guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor vandalism, meaning damage under $1,000. Robert Earl Davis, 20, of 5639 Courthouse Road, had been indicted on the felony variety.
The charge stemmed from damage to a 1997 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck owned by John Starcher. Tyler said the two men got into a fight while at a party last Nov. 8. Later that night, the prosecutor said, Starcher’s girlfriend saw Davis vandalize the pickup.
Hoover sentenced Davis to 12 months in jail, all suspended for the next two years, and ordered the defendant to pay $1,571 in restitution to Starcher.