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SALT LAKE CITY — One by one, members of James Wesley Robinson's family were called to stand before 3rd District Judge James Blanch Friday.
In each case, the Robinson family members were sentenced to jail and ordered to begin serving immediately. They were placed in handcuffs and led out of the courtroom to a holding cell as tearful friends and family members looked on.
Robinson, 51, a former assistant city attorney who used to represent the Salt Lake Police Department, and his two sons, Alexander Jordan Robinson, 22, and Zachary Ryan Robinson, 19, were sentenced to the Salt Lake County Jail for having a clandestine drug lab in the basement of their upper middle class Wasatch Hollow neighborhood home.
James Robinson was sentenced to 120 days in jail. His pre-sentence report from Adult Probation and Parole had recommended 90 days. Prosecutors asked the judge to impose a six month sentence. The two brothers were sentenced to 60 days in jail despite recommendations for 90.
Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Andrea Martinez Griffin said the sentences were "incredibly fair."
"The issue really isn't just about marijuana. The issue is they were manufacturing marijuana in what is called a 'dab and shatter,' which is essentially equivalent to a clandestine lab, which is equivalent to a methamphetamine lab. They're very dangerous," she said. "So there was a community danger and safety issue.
"This isn't just about use of marijuana and smoking recreationally. There were large quantities of marijuana. People would come to their house to buy. They were manufacturing marijuana. They were selling marijuana. There was a total recovered of $26,000 in their home. That's a large amount of money going in and out."
The issue really isn't just about marijuana. The issue is they were manufacturing marijuana in what is called a 'dab and shatter,' which is essentially equivalent to a clandestine lab, which is equivalent to a methamphetamine lab. They're very dangerous.
–Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Andrea Martinez Griffin
The operation was discovered while police were investigating a burglary in the Robinson home a year ago. In December, James Robinson pleaded guilty to felony charges of drug distribution, possession of a firearm and possession of clandestine laboratory equipment.
His sons both pleaded guilty to felony charges of possessing lab equipment and distributing a controlled substance, though prosecutors agreed their charges could be reduced to misdemeanors if they complete probation successfully.
On Friday, each defendant stood to face Blanch individually. Each defense attorney argued that their clients were already on the road to being contributing members of society and that jail time would actually do more harm than good.
Zach Robinson stood first.
"I was unaware of all the dangerous acts I did before," a repentant Robinson told the judge. "I feel horrible for putting people in danger. … I stand before you a changed man. I'm not a bad person. I would love to prove that with my future actions."
Blanch told Robinson to look at his sentence as an "opportunity, not punishment" and to serve his sentence with dignity.
After Zach Robinson was led out of the courtroom, his father, James Robinson, stood before Blanch. Robinson told the judge that it was "painful, humbling and humiliating" for him to stand before the court.
"Never in a million years did I think I'd be standing here today," he said.
Robinson said he was busy at work and was going through several personal issues while the lab was in his house. He said he essentially had checked out both mentally and physically from his family.
"I take responsibility for my failure as a parent," he said. "I overlooked some things, I tolerated some things that I shouldn't have. And that's on me as a parent."
Robinson said the ordeal had been a wakeup call for him.
In a number of ways, I'm glad this happened. I feel there's a lot of good that's come of this.
–James Wesley Robinson
"In a number of ways, I'm glad this happened. I feel there's a lot of good that's come of this," he said.
But Blanch agreed with prosecutors that it seemed "implausible" that Robinson had no idea there was a drug lab inside his own house. The judge said it was "disappointing" that Robinson was only taking responsibility for bad parenting and not for the charges he pleaded guilty to.
Alexander Robinson then pleaded with the judge to let him finish the semester at the University of Utah before going to jail. He said he is a chemical engineering student with a 3.3 GPA.
But Blanch agreed with prosecutors that Alexander Robinson was minimizing what had happened and had not taken responsiblity for his actions.
"I don't require people to share the state's philosophy about drugs," he told Robinson. "It's not my job as judge to decide what the drug laws should be, but to enforce them."
Blanch said he gave the older Robinson brother 60 days in jail because that's what he had already sentenced his younger brother to. Otherwise, he said, he would have likely sentenced him to more time because of his lack of responsibility and because he didn't have a prior drug problem like his brother. When the judge suggested that could mean Alexander Robinson was involved with the clandestine lab mainly for profit purposes, Robinson quietly shook his head "no." Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam