Stricter sentencing guidelines leading some cases to federal courts

Posted: Feb. 23, 2013 5:15 pm Updated: Mar. 9, 2013 8:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard believes that what is best for the community is the best way to handle some of the more notorious criminals.

Barnard has no problem handing over cases to federal law enforcement officials. This month, Barnard has dropped state charges in three significant drug cases -- all of which dealt with methamphetamine -- so that the offenders could be tried in federal court.

"The discussions we have normally center upon where or which venue provides stiffer penalties," Barnard said. "We want these people, or at least the ones who are normally the subject of our discussions in federal cases, off the street for as long as possible."

One of the main reasons cases head to the federal level is the stricter sentencing guidelines. When sentenced at the federal level, defendants have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

"That's a huge consideration when the U.S. Attorney's Office, our office and all of the task forces we work with sit down and discuss where we want to prosecute this particular defendant," Barnard said. "We know that in the federal system, if they are in prison that they have to do 85 percent of their sentence. That is a big consideration. There are only a limited number of offenses are eligible for 85 percent."

The most high profile of the cases of those that was recently sent to the federal system involved a Quincy man who is alleged to have run one of the biggest "one-pot" meth cooking operations that local law enforcement officials have ever seen. Federal charges were filed on Feb. 7 against Field Wolf, 31. He was one of two people arrested after officers found more than 500 "one-pot" shake-and-bake methamphetamine containers at a residence at 412 Spruce on Quincy's northwest side.

Wolf faces four counts in the federal indictment. The federal government charges that Wolf "knowingly and intentionally conspired to manufacture and distribute 500 grams or more of a controlled substance" for a two-year period from Jan. 7, 2011, through Jan. 7, 2013.

The government charges that Wolf "intentionally used or maintained a building at 412 Spruce for the purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine." Wolf also is charged with "knowingly possess(ing) firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime" and with unlawful transport of firearms.

Wolf's case fit the profile of what officials are looking for when they target a case for federal prosecution.

"By the time a particular defendant or case gets on the federal radar screen, they normally have to be repeat offenders, violent offenders and big-time operators," Barnard said. "We also look for people who deal in both drugs and weapons. We will often sit down with the U.S. Attorney's Office and look at which venue provides better security for communities as far as taking these people off the street for longer period of time."

Like others who face federal charges, Wolf will be transferred to a federal detention center near Springfield while his case. Earlier this month, Scott E. Roan, 41, and Troy E. Cleesen, 44, had their methamphetamine cases transferred to federal court.

More than just drug cases go to the federal courts. Barnard said that it is likely Willie B. Franklin, who is alleged to have robbed the First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust on Dec. 26, will be tried in federal court. Franklin, 37, of Urbana, is a suspect in 14 bank robberies.