By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
An Adams County Drug Court graduate is heading to prison as the result of another methamphetamine conviction.
Rodney C. Ward, 46, was sentenced Friday to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for unlawful participation in meth manufacturing. He could have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison as part of a plea agreement.
"This is a disappointing day for a lot of people in this courtroom," said Judge William Mays, who oversees the Drug Court program.
Ward was part of the second Drug Court class, graduating in April 2008. Ward pleaded guilty to a meth possession charge in a 2006 case and completed a 30-month probation term.
He turned back to the drug after graduation. Adams County First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha said Ward had tried to buy pseudoephedrine pills, a key meth-making ingredient, 129 times. He was successful 90 times and was blocked from buying 39 times. Farha said officers seized 186 grams of pills at Ward's residence, a total that Ward's attorney, Public Defender Todd Nelson, disputed.
Ward and his wife, Christine L. Ward, 49, were arrested after the West Central Illinois Task Force swerved a search warrant at a residence in the 1700 block of Cherry Street. They were both arrested on charges of aggravated unlawful participation in meth production.
Ward was looking at a minimum of four years in prison. He was not eligible for probation because of his previous meth conviction. Farha asked Mays to levy the stiffest possible penalty against Ward.
"To get this great opportunity (of Drug Court) and then blowing it like Mr. Ward has done, there needs to be significant penalties," Farha said.
Nelson asked Mays for a minimum sentence. He said this would be Ward's first trip to prison. He said Ward had successfully completed a 30-day inpatient rehabilitation program and was frequently going to counseling sessions.
"He has been open and honest about his criminal activity in this case," Nelson said. "He's admitted to his use. He's admitted to selling to other people. Even though he knows this is a mandatory prison sentence, he has appeared at every court hearing and is very thankful for the last continuance."
Ward was to be sentenced June 26, but Mays allowed for a continuance because of an ill relative in Ward's family who was close to death.
Given a chance to speak before Mays delivered his sentence Friday, Ward said little other than thanking Mays for the recent continuance.
"You did well in Drug Court," Mays told Ward. "But the fact that you went back to using meth just points out the strength of the addiction."
Christine Ward's case has been placed on the September docket. She was denied enrollment in the Drug Court program June 25.
Rodney Ward has been free since March 26. He was released on a $75,000 recognizance bond so that he could get inpatient treatment. Christine Ward has been free since posting $750 on March 13.