The former police chief of Wendover had only a few minutes to hug his children and other family members Friday before he was taken away to prison.
A 3rd District judge ordered that June Carter, 36, immediately be sent to the Point of the Mountain, where he will serve a zero-to-5-year sentence for his guilty plea to possession of cocaine, a third-degree felony.Carter told Judge Frank Noel he agreed to plead guilty to the charge in January because he can't afford to continue to fight the drug charges against him. "I said I'm guilty because I didn't need and couldn't afford to be represented down the road on further charges," he said.
But the judge still sentenced him to prison, saying police officers have a higher standard of conduct to uphold.
"When a law enforcement officer is found guilty of criminal activity . . . it's the one thing that really does undermine the confidence of the public," Noel said. He also said he would recommend that the former police chief receive treatment at the prison for substance abuse problems.
Some of Carter's children present in the courtroom broke into tears when the judge read the sentence. They continued to sob afterward while he hugged his children and handed over his car keys to one of his sons. Carter's defense attorney, Steven Lee Payton, asked the judge for probation instead of a prison sentence, explaining that Carter has an exemplary record and a prison sentence would greatly affect his family. Two children have attempted suicide because of this case, he said.
The judge said he was well aware of the impact the decision will have on Carter's family and said that "weighed heavily on my mind." But Noel said Carter's family is but Carter's responsibility, not the court's, and he said the defendant should have considered that before any crimes were committed.
Carter's former wife and the mother of six of his children lives in Salt Lake City and will have full custody of them. Prosecutors said maternal grandparents are prepared to take care of two other children.
Carter's current wife, Janese Carter, was sentenced in July to serve one to 15 years for distributing drugs she obtained as a Wendover police officer. She also worked as the department's evidence custodian. She was arrested Feb. 27, 1990, in the Crossroads Plaza parking lot after selling undercover agents cocaine and methamphetamines out of a marked police vehicle.
June Carter was originally charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute after agents discovered cocaine, metal scales and plastic bags in the trunk of his police car. The day before, his wife was arrested for selling the drugs from his police vehicle.
Payton said he was not happy with the judge's sentence. He said his client was "dealt with much more severely than cases with other police officers" and feels the judge may have been influenced by an implied theory that both Carter and his wife were involved in the drug operation together.
Payton argued for more than two hours Friday morning that the sentencing should be postponed because of "improprieties" from prosecutors and law enforcement officers involved with the case. Among other things, he said a Utah Division of Investigations agent had illegally forbidden a witness to speak to Payton earlier this week and accused prosecutors of playing games with the judicial system.
The judge, however, said he did not feel there was any reason to postpone the hearing and pronounced the sentence.
In exchange for Carter's guilty plea in January, the state agreed to drop witness-tampering and wire-tapping charges against him and agreed not to file additional charges against him. On Feb. 20, he pleaded guilty in Davis County to obtaining a prescription under a false pretense, a class A misdemeanor. He will be sentenced for that offense on March 25.