“I gave you probation at one point, and you failed miserably,” said District Court Judge Travis O’Gorman while issuing his sentence for Blaze Clark, 23, of Alliance, who was found guilty of distributing marijuana.
According to the Affidavit in Support for Arrest Warrant, in March 2018, investigators with the Western Nebraska Intelligence and Narcotics Group were working with a confidential informant to organize a controlled buy. The informant was in communication with Clark regarding the purchase of marijuana.
On March 15, 2018 WING set the controlled buy in motion, with the informant purchasing 1.03 grams of marijuana. According to the Affidavit, WING set up another controlled buy on May 14, 2018, in which an informant purchased 7.7 grams of marijuana from Clark.
Clark was taken into custody and charged with two counts of distribution of marijuana, one count being a class 2A felony, and the other a class 3A felony.
Through a plea agreement, one count was dropped, and Clark pleaded no contest to the class 2A felony, which carried a maximum sentence of 20 years.
At Clark’s sentencing, Deputy County Attorney Larry Miller noted his past representation of Clark, but said he was unable to recommend probation.
“This case is a little difficult for me,” said Miller. “As the court knows, I’ve represented Mr. Clark. I like Mr. Clark. I’m really disappointed that we’re here again. He wants to do right in the world again, he wants the court to give him probation, but he won’t do treatment in Alliance. He doesn’t feel he needs treatment. He won’t do MRT (Moral Reconation Therapy) classes. He doesn’t have a job. He said he’s going to have to sit out his fines and costs. He’s got some mental health diagnosis, but he doesn’t take medications. The indication from the pre-sentence investigation wasn’t entirely honest with the probation officer during his interview. So while I’d like to recommend probation, I don’t think I can. I’m afraid that this is a case where a term of incarceration is appropriate based on the offense and the pre-sentence investigation.”
Jon Worthman, Clark’s attorney, explained that Clark had trouble answering some of the questions from the probation officers during the pre-sentence investigation.
“The things Mr. Miller said are true,” Worthman said. “He does have a mental health diagnosis. He does struggle. Employment’s been a problem. Mr. Clark certainly would like to get these things straightened out. I think probation would be an opportunity to do that. I think he would comply with the orders and do everything he has to do. Since this happened, he has been clean and sober.”
Clark said that he has been taking steps to improve.
“I’m doing a lot better than I was,” said Clark. “I’ve been looking for a job. I’ve been going to a program called Celebrate Recovery, which my pastor runs. I’ve been going every Friday, and it’s helped me with being able to stay sober. My problem with the MRT class was that I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t have help at all. That didn’t really help me.”
Judge O’Gorman told Clark that with his charge, he faced a sentence of 20 years, emphasizing the severity of his actions.
“I could give you 18 to 20 today,” said Judge O’Gorman. “You can ask your attorney how often the Nebraska Supreme Court reverses sentences that are within the guideline. I could put you in the pen for 20 years, and the court wouldn’t touch it. That’s how serious this is.
“And despite the fact that it’s that serious, I’m reading your PSI (pre-sentence investigation), ‘MRT? Screw that.’ Really? You’re going to say that in a PSI that you know a person who has the authority and ability to put you in the penitentiary for 20 years is going to read that. Are you serious? Then I see you don’t want to do treatment; you ‘don’t need treatment.’ What do you want? You failed on probation.”
Judge O’Gorman said because of Clark’s actions and responses to the pre-sentence investigation, he had no choice but to send Clark to prison.
“You’re lucky I’m reasonable,” said Judge O’Gorman. “I’m going to give you just a taste. You’re going to go east, but not for very long. I don’t want to put you there very long; not at this point, but it’s going to happen. If you don’t learn, change your attitude, get off the drugs, you’re going to be there for a long time. You’re going to get a taste, and I want you to take it all in when you’re there, because, eventually, if you don’t shape up, that’s where you’re going for a long time.”
Judge O’Gorman sentenced Clark to serve not less than one year, but not more than two years in the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. He was given credit for 22 days served. Clark will be eligible for parole in six months, and subject to mandatory discharge in one year if he does not lose any good time.
“Let’s hope that when you come back, you’re ready and willing to be a productive member of society,” said Judge O’Gorman.