Suspect in meth case gets probation

Prosecutors employ 'carrot-and-stick approach'

A judge accepted a plea agreement Wednesday that will send one of the suspects from December's methamphetamine sweep to one year in a drug treatment program and four years of probation.

Clinton David Ginther, 23, of Craig, pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony distribution of meth, a crime that could have sent him to prison for 16 years.

Ginther pleaded guilty as part of a deal with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office. In exchange for pleading guilty to the most serious charge against him, prosecutors dropped meth possession charges and stipulated that Ginther would avoid a prison sentence.

Under the agreement, if Gin--ther violates probation, he faces 16 years in prison, followed by five years of parole.

Prosecutors said the deal was designed to give Ginther motivation to stay out of trouble.

"It's kind of the maximum carrot-and-stick approach," Deputy District Attorney Michael Stern said.

Chief District Judge Michael O'Hara was leery of the deal at first. But after Stern explained that the treatment program was a live-in facility, the judge agreed to the deal.

"I believe, Mr. Ginther, that you need help," O'Hara said.

Ginther was one of 15 people arrested in December during one of the biggest meth sweeps in Moffat County history. All 15 were charged with distribution and possession of meth.

To get into the treatment program, which is on the Front Range, Ginther has to pass a physical exam and get a new Social Security card, said his lawyer, Leslie Goldstein. O'Hara agreed to allow Ginther out of jail on a two-day furlough next month to take the exam and get a new Social Security card.

If Ginther doesn't go back to jail after the two-day furlough, the judge said, Wednesday's guilty plea will still stand, but the plea agreement will be thrown out.

"If you get out of jail, don't blow this," O'Hara said.

O'Hara will sentence Ginther on May 1. O'Hara said he could decide to reject the sentencing stipulation at the hearing in May based on the outcome of a pre-sentencing investigation.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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