A Montgomery County judge rejected pleas for mercy yesterday and sentenced a man to five years in prison for manufacturing and selling LSD, saying he hoped the sentence would "communicate to other boneheads out there on the streets that you'd better not peddle this stuff."
Judge John McAuliffe imposed the sentence in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Jeffrey Patrick Lemmon, 22, of Towson, Md., whose arrest on June 26 followed a six-month police investigation of incidents, including LSD deals with teen-agers at Washington area high and junior high schools.
According to police and prosecutors, Lemmon was a chief source in the area for LSD, a potent hallucinogenic drug that can cause permanent mental damage to the user. Since Lemmon's arrest, LSD sales in the Washington-Baltimore area have dropped sharply, according to police testimony.
Last Feb. 5, Lemmon entered guilty pleas to a count of conspiring to distrubute LSD, a count of possessing LSD with intent to distribute it and a third count, brought in Baltimore County, of possessing controlled dangerous substances with intent to manufacture LSD.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, the drug counts against Lemmon, who is an admitted heroin addict, were reduced from five to three. Prosecutors also agreed that he was to serve no more than six years in prison, rather than the 15 years possible under the three counts.
Defense attorney Phil Armstrong asked on behalf of his family that Lemmon be sentenced to 18 months in the Montgomery County Detention Center on condition that upon his release he enter, for at least a year, the tough Second Genesis live-in rehabilitation program for drug users. Since Lemmon would be eligible for parole from prison within two to three years, Armstrong reasoned to McAuliffe, time at the local jail and a year at the drug program would amount to nearly the same punishment.
Prosecutor Matt Campbell argued that Lemmon be sent to state prison, which is generally viewed as stricter punishment than the local jail, and therefore more of a deterrent. "There's a feeling among drug dealers in Montgomery County that the first time you're caught, nothing much will happen to you," Campbell told McAuliffe, challenging the judge to prove them wrong.
Rejecting Armstrong's sentence proposal, McAuliffe, who was appointed to the Maryland Court of Appeals March 1 but is finishing up his Circuit Court cases, said: "The state reminded me that this crime is not one involving a single victim, but is one that involved uncounted, unknown victims with untold residues."
"What really troubles me, Mr. Lemmon, is that you were dealing a drug that's particularly despicable -- LSD. In my experience, there's only one worse -- PCP a violence-inducing hallucinogen -- and their effects are closely related," McAuliffe said.
"I want to tell you, the people in this society are fed up with the people who are making money distributing drugs," McAuliffe said, as he sentenced Lemmon to five concurrent years in the state prison system for each of the three counts.