By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Facing up to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections after pleading guilty in two separate methamphetamine cases, a Quincy man received 24 months probation on each charge.
Darren L. Smith, 30, avoided prison time because he had made great strides toward rehabilitation after his second arrest on July 9. He was commended by Judge William Mays and First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha for doing the things necessary to turn his life around.
Smith entered a 60-day residential treatment program after his release from the Adams County Jail on Aug. 21. After he was released from that treatment, Smith continued to seek daily counseling, obtained a sponsor to help him through his drug addiction and got a job.
"He's a candidate for probation based on what he's done since his arrest," Farha said.
"If others find themselves in trouble and want to make positive changes in their life, this is what can happen to you. I hope he is a success story."
Smith was arrested three times on felony drug charges last year. The first arrest stemmed from an incident late in 2011. Those charges were dismissed as part of a plea negotiation in his other two cases.
He was arrested on May 5 for possession of less than five grams of meth. He pleaded guilty to that charge on Jan. 4.
On July 9, Smith was arrested on five meth counts. He was one of four people arrested during a search of a residence in the 1500 block of Penthouse Drive. Officers with the West Central Illinois Task Force found numerous items used to make meth and more than 15 grams of crystal meth.
Digital scales, $1,600 in cash, a surveillance system and packing materials believed to be used to ship the crystal meth were also found.
Smith entered an Alford plea on an unlawful possession of meth precursors charge on Jan. 4 in that case. By entering an Alford plea, Smith maintained his innocence but admitted that sufficient evidence existed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
He spent 45 days in the Adams County Jail before entering rehab.
"I know I made some bad decisions," Smith said. "I was hanging out with a lot of the wrong people. But I have changed by people, places and things. My whole life is in this courtroom with me right now, my family."
Smith's lawyer, Public Defender Todd Nelson, lobbied on his behalf.
"I don't know what else that he can do to show the court that he is a good candidate for probation," Nelson said. "While he has made some serious errors in judgment, he has turned the corner now."
Mays agreed with both Farha and Nelson and agreed with a sentence to probation.
"You are doing everything that you can do to make sure you don't relapse," Mays told Smith. "By doing those things, you have a huge leg up on others who sit in that chair."
Smith received non-judgment probation on the possession charge, and TASC probation on the precursors charge, meaning that if he successfully completes the terms of probation, the conviction will be erased from his permanent record.
Mays ordered Smith to do 30 hours of public service and sentenced him to 90 days in the Adams County Jail, but stayed the rest of that time.