An Erath County jury heard the state's opening argument and witness testimony Monday in the sentencing hearing for a Stephenville man who pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
After pleading guilty in the 266th Judicial District Court, Johnathan Bedford Newman, 24, opted to put his fate into the hands of a jury of six men and six women who are expected to issue a sentencing recommendation today. A first-degree felony carries a punishment of five to 99 years in prison.
As the trial got under way, Assistant District Attorney Sterling Harmon told the jury that the defendant was guilty by his own admission, leaving only one question to answer.
"What are you going to do about it?" Harmon asked.
Harmon said the two cases against Newman stemmed from a Feb. 7 arrest by the Erath County Sheriff's Office and a second arrest on April 21 by the Stephenville Police Department.
Harmon said Newman's first arrest followed a routine traffic stop by Deputy Bobby Mendez. According to Harmon, after Mendez spotted marijuana inside the vehicle in which Newman was a passenger, the deputy witnessed the defendant attempt to conceal what appeared to be a can of WD-40.
Harmon said a closer inspection by Mendez revealed the spray lubricant was actually a false-bottom canister that contained more than 30 grams of meth and cocaine. He also said law enforcement officials located contacts and messages on Newman's cell phone that were apparently related to drug transactions.
The second arrest was made in April by Stephenville Police Officer Brandon Boen who was nearly hit by an automobile and stopped the silver Cadillac in the courthouse parking lot. Newman, who was out on bail for the first offense, was arrested for possessing about six grams of meth which he attempted to conceal inside his shoe.
Finally, Harmon told the jury that the cases against Newman were simply two more in a long list of convictions. He said since he was 17 years old, Newman has tallied "at least 12 convictions with at least six (of them being) drug related," including three prior drug felonies. Harmon said a prior plea agreement landed Newman in prison after he violated the conditions of his probationary sentence.
"It is time for you to decide for yourselves and your community what you are going to do about it," Harmon said.
Newman's court-appointed defense attorney, Andrew Ottaway, did not make an opening statement.
The sentencing hearing is expected to wrap up Tuesday with closing arguments beginning at 9 a.m.