A Syracuse man seeking to avoid prison on a marijuana conviction by having his case transferred to another judge was ordered to prison Tuesday to begin serving a zero-to-five-year term.
Lane C. Stromberg, 36, was convicted in 2nd District Court Sept. 22 of possession of marijuana after a three-day jury trial. But the jury found him not guilty of possession of three pounds of cocaine found in his garage by narcotics agents in May.Marijuana possession is normally a Class-A misdemeanor, carrying a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. But because Stromberg's house is within 1,000 feet of a school, Utah law adds an enhancement provision that pushed the offense up to a third-degree felony, which carries a prison term and $5,000 fine.
That enhancement provision also pushed the cocaine possession charge up to a first-degree felony, meaning Stromberg would have faced a prison term of five years to life and a $10,000 fine if the jury had found him guilty.
Second District Judge Rodney S. Page, who presided at Stromberg's trial, scheduled sentencing for Oct. 25, after a presentence investigation by Adult Probation and Parole.
As a courtesy, Page notified Stromberg's attorney, Dave Knowlton, on the day of the sentencing hearing that he intended to send Stromberg to prison instead of exercising his option of putting him on probation with a short jail term.
Knowlton filed a motion of bias against the judge and asked that the case be transferred to 2nd District Judge Douglas L Cornaby, which Page granted.
Tuesday, Cornaby said he carefully reviewed Stromberg's background, including a prior marijuana possession conviction in 1980, and concluded he has a long history of substance abuse.
And his usual practice under those circumstances is to send a first-time felony offender to prison, Cornaby said, ordering a stunned Stromberg to begin serving the term immediately and fining him the full $5,000.
Knowlton said he will appeal the conviction, along with the state's enhancement provision, and Cornaby set a hearing on the appeal for Monday but denied Knowlton's request that Stromberg be allowed to remain out on bond until the appeal hearing.