Former Adams County Drug Court leader faces federal charge after meth arrest; state charges to be dropped

John Grotts (H-W File Photo)
Posted: May. 22, 2013 5:00 pm Updated: Jun. 12, 2013 5:08 pm
Devin C. Lawton (Submitted Photo)

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A former leader of the Adams County Drug Court program will face a federal charge after being arrested on two methamphetamine charges last month.

John Grotts, 59, of Ursa made his first appearance in federal court on Wednesday afternoon. He was charged with maintaining drug-involved premises. If convicted, Grotts could spend up to 20 years in federal prison.

Sharon Paul, public information officer with the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Grotts turned himself in to federal authorities on Wednesday morning. Paul said Grotts was not detained. His next court appearance is set for June 29.

Because he has been charged in federal court, Grotts will not face state charges. His first court appearance on state charges was postponed on Tuesday. He was going to be charged with illegal possession of less than 5 grams of meth and illegal use of property.

Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard said federal court was the appropriate setting for Grotts' case.

"(The federal government) has concurrent jurisdiction in a number of crimes," Barnard said. "A given event or given incident could subject a person to federal prosecution. A decision (on where the case will be tried) is based on discussions with federal prosecutors. We both agreed that the federal venue was more appropriate for this case."

Grotts and Devin C. Lawton, 35, of Quincy were arrested April 26 after members of the West Central Illinois Task Force served a warrant on Grotts' residence at 207 Walker in Ursa.

According to a federal affidavit, task force members confiscated trash at Grotts' residence on April 24. Officers collected three bags from a bin in front of the residence. Found inside the bags were eight burnt pieces of foil with residue, one of which tested positive for meth, a cellophane bag containing cannabis stems and seeds, which field-tested positive for the presence of cannabis, a receipt showing the purchase of pseudoephedrine pills, several plastic corner-cut baggies and papers showing Grotts' address.

When task force agents served the warrant on April 26, they said they found a one-pot shake-and-bake meth lab that contained meth residue on the back porch by the walk-out door from Grotts' and Lawton's bedroom. Two bags of cannabis were found in the bedroom and a cannabis pipe was found on the living room floor, agents said.

From the bedroom, agents confiscated a corner-cut baggy with white residue, a "tooter" straw and a piece of burnt foil with meth residue, three used coffee filters with residue, two pieces of foil, a marijuana grinder, digital scales and baggies. One bag of cannabis was found in a basement safe.

Found in the basement, agents said, were a grow light and metal stand used to grow plants indoors, a book on growing marijuana, four boxes of starting plugs, two scales, a water pump, three boxes of empty capsules, and a number of totes that contained more than 100 blue bags of plant material.

Agents seized 11 guns that were throughout the house. A 9 mm pistol, four magazines of ammunition and two 20-gauge double-barrel shotguns were found in a computer room. Eight rifles were found in a closet by the front door of the residence.

Lawton told task force officers she had been living with Grotts for a year with her daughter and son. She admitted to obtaining and using meth, cannabis and other controlled substances at the house.

She said she obtained the drugs from a third party who had burned the meth manufacturing trash in a pit. She said she purchased pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient, and gave it to the third party for use in meth manufacturing. According to the National Precursor Exchange Log, Lawton had purchased pseudoephedrine 10 times since May 10, 2012.

She said all of the meth materials in the house belonged to her. She said the plant material found in the basement belonged to Grotts.

On the night of his arrest, Grotts told investigators he had caught Lawton using meth a couple of times and thought each time would be the last. Grotts told investigators they would find marijuana in the house. He said that he and Lawton and her children had been living at his house and that another person had just moved into the basement.

Grotts denied using or manufacturing meth or marijuana. He also denied having any knowledge of Lawton using, manufacturing or distributing marijuana.

"When it came to meth, I was a meth Nazi, and when it came to cannabis, I looked the other way," Grotts told investigators. "I believe one is less evil."

He admitted to selling the plant material found in the basement online, but agents said he told them he thought it was legal to sell.

Grotts had been one of the leaders of the Adams County Drug Court program since 2008. One of his primary duties was to determine which offenders are viable candidates for the Drug Court program.

The program, an intense form of probation for drug abusers, began in Adams County in 2006. Those who are sentenced to Drug Court and complete the 30-month program avoid jail or prison.

There have been 53 graduates so far. The program's next graduation is set for June 20.

Grotts was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest. His employment with the Adams County Probation and Court Services Department was terminated on May 9. Grotts had worked in the Probation Department since July 2000.

Lawton was arrested on an outstanding warrant for illegal possession of meth precursors. She graduated from Drug Court in May 2012. She was in Adams County Circuit Court on Wednesday. Lawton waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She is scheduled to have an arraignment hearing June 5 in front of Judge Scott Walden.

Lawton is being lodged in the Adams County Jail in lieu of a $50,000 bond.



Editor's note: This story has been updated since its original posting.