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Biggest Pill Dealer In County Is Sentenced

By Staff | Feb 11, 2009

The self-professed biggest pill dealer in Wetzel County for five years was sentenced by Judge David Hummel Jr. to one to 15 years in the West Virginia Penitentiary for Men Feb. 6.

Joseph Dale Brown , 32, of 626 Sixth St., New Martinsville, had pleaded guilty on Sept. 2 to possession of a controlled substance, hydrocodone, with intent to deliver, but sentencing had been delayed. Hummel heard arguments from the defense and prosecution concerning the sentencing with some testimony being given “in chambers” due to the sensitive and private nature of the testimony.

Brown explained to the court that he has had problems with his lungs for which he was prescribed pain medication. He took it for several years and when he tried to stop taking the prescription, he was addicted. “Everything I’ve done has brought me to this point,” said Brown. “I’m so sorry for what I did. It was the worst mistake of my life. I’m so sorry for everyone that I’ve hurt-especially my daughter.”

He added that he did not believe additional time incarcerated would make any difference. He spent 38 days in jail. “I think I’ve learned everything I can learn,” said Brown, who pointed out that current treatment is working.

Defense Attorney Keith White called Brown’s ex-wife, Rebecca Brown of Lisbon, Ohio, to the stand. She testified that she and the defendant have a 12-year-old daughter together and he has custody of her. “They’re so close; she needs him,” she said through tears.

She reiterated the story of Joseph Brown’s health problems, saying he has had two collapsed lungs and chronic pain syndrome. She also related his efforts to stop his drug addiction. “We’ve had him in and out of detox centers. He has tried so many times to get away from them (the drugs),” she testified. “He’s learned his lesson and he deserves a second chance.”

The defendant’s ex-mother-in-law, Diana Mikes, also testified on his behalf. She said before his health problems Joseph Brown worked and held down jobs. He then entered a dark period, but says since he has been arrested and off drugs, she has seen a change in him. He has a more solid mind, pays a lot of attention to his family and his appearance, and goes out more in public.

Mikes said she knew her ex-son-in-law was addicted to prescription pills for about six months before his arrest, however, she testified she did not know he was selling the pills.

White, who serves as mental health commissioner in Wood County, said he knows that not all cases are the same. “Some people do need help. I really do believe Mr. Brown has come to the realization. We have someone, I believe, who has really changed,” he said, adding that Joseph Brown has been out of jail for five-and-a-half months on a personal recognizance bond to enable him to seek drug treatment. “Was that for naught?” White asked. The defense attorney asked if the court is to treat people as objects to send messages. “I’m not sure that the purpose of the law is to send messages,” offered White.

Haught said his philosophy has always been, “to fail to exercise any discretion is an abuse of discretion.” And he knows that every case is different and addiction does cause some actions. However, he asserted that Joseph Brown was doctor shopping to obtain the vast quantity of pills in his possession which he was delivering to his “friends”.

Haught took particular exception to that last practice, wondering, “Why would you ever want to spread the misery and death associated with addiction to your friends?

“It seems that the defendant wants the court to take away consequence because he was addicted,” added Haught. However, he asserted that Joseph Brown made a choice and the person he allegedly sold drugs to that night was taken to Wetzel County Hospital for an overdose. That action provided the needed information for a search warrant that brought about Joseph Brown’s arrest. If it hadn’t been for that overdose, asked Haught, would Joseph Brown still be dealing prescription pills?

“The difference between being an addict and a dealer is as stark as apples and pumpkins,” said Judge Hummel. The closed court hearings gave Hummel a vision of a sophisticated network where Joseph Brown actively and vigorously got pills into Wetzel County. “Quite frankly,” said the judge, “that is shocking to the court in and of itself.” Joseph Brown also used text messaging and other means to actively seek individuals for purchase, said Hummel.

Whether Joseph Brown is a current or inactive addict was of no consequence to the judge. “Quite frankly, he committed a crime-a felony crime with serious consequences,” Hummel said.

Hummel further expressed disgust for Joseph Brown’s characterization of himself to New Martinsville Police Detective Donnie Harris as “the biggest pill dealer in Wetzel County for five years” by saying it was “reprehensible . . . absolutely.”

He then sentenced Brown to one to 15 years in the West Virginia Penitentiary for Men. He is to report to the Northern Regional Jail no later than noon on Feb. 15 to be delivered to the Commissioner of Corrections to begin serving his sentence.