Holiday drug bust costs man jail time

A South Carolina man will be placed in a Nelsonville correctional facility for five months after being caught in Washington County with large quantities of drugs on Christmas Eve.

He was also sentenced to six months in jail, which he has already served.

Christopher A. Burton, 26, of 111 Gordon St. Extension, Greenville, S.C., pleaded guilty May 17 to one fifth-degree felony count of drug trafficking and was sentenced Friday in Washington County Common Pleas Court.

“I realize I made a mistake,” Burton said during Friday’s hearing. “It’s the first time I had a felony. I have had a lot of time to think. I am ready to get my life in order. I’d like to go home so I can be with my family.”

Burton said he is married and has three young children.

Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane sentenced Burton to six months in jail with credit for time already served and ordered him into the SEPTA center. Burton will stay in the Washington County Jail until he is transferred to Nelsonville on Friday.

“It’s what we worked out,” said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Jared Erb. “We wanted six months, and he’s been in six months already. He can’t go to prison because, under Ohio law, it’s the maximum he’s going to get.”

Burton and his girlfriend, Heather N. Ellason, 22, of 109 Martindale Drive, Simpsonville, S.C., each were charged with one third-degree felony count of possession of drugs, one third-degree felony count of trafficking in drugs and one fifth-degree felony count of possession of drugs.

The Ohio Highway Patrol stopped the pair Dec. 24 on Interstate 77 near Macksburg for speeding. A search of the car revealed 105 Oxycodone pills and 5 grams of methamphetamine, 3 grams of marijuana and items that would indicate trafficking, Erb said at Ellason’s May 22 sentencing. Ellason was sentenced to 10 months in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

Burton’s mother, Renee, said her son was on his way to visit the family for Christmas in New Philadelphia, but he never made it. It was Dec. 26 before she and her family found out where he was.

Defense attorney Rolf Baumgartel said because Burton has no prior felonies, he recommended six months with credit for time served. Erb agreed.

“You have a considerable record,” Lane told Burton. Previous charges against Burton include bad checks, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, enticing children, unlawful purchase of copper and not paying child support.

“I think you are a classic candidate for SEPTA,” Lane said “It’s a good program.”

Lane also outlined the conditions of the sentence and that if Burton violates any of them, he will immediately go to prison. They include him not having access to guns, allowing authorities to search him or his property and not being late for meetings with his probation officer.

Renee Burton said the sentence might be good for her son.

“He’s a good-hearted person, and he screwed up,” Renee said. “He’s always been able to adapt.”