An ailing 55-year-old Salt Lake man who said he sold cocaine to supplement his Social Security income was sentenced Monday to 5 1/2 years in a federal prison.
Utah federal Judge David Sam sentenced J.R. Brownlee to six months in prison on his guilty plea to a cocaine possession charge and a minimum mandatory five-year term for possession of firearms during a drug trafficking crime.Sam said the sentences will be served consecutively. As part of Brownlee's guilty plea, the judge dismissed a third count of distribution of cocaine.
Brownlee was arrested Jan. 4, 1989, by Salt Lake City Police, who also seized a handgun and shotgun from the suspect. But before the case was turned over to federal prosecutors, Brownlee was released from jail and was a fugitive until his second arrest, in July of this year.
Defense attorney Fred Metos said Brownlee "did not use drugs, because of his health problems" and that the former bus driver only sold cocaine "for added support for his family."
Metos also asked Sam to allow Brownlee to surrender to a federal prison in Texas because he suffers from heart and lung ailments, arthritis and gout, and is afraid of flying.
But, prosecutor Bruce Lubeck opposed Brownlee's release from a federal halfway house in Salt Lake, claiming the 5 1/2-year prison term "is too big of a temptation."
Because Brownlee "was a fugitive for more than one year and because of the term of imprisonment," Sam said he would not allow the defendant to self-surrender.