Federal judge tempers justice with mercy while sentencing St. George defendant to federal prison

Matthew Stearns, 25, appeared in 5th District Court Wednesday for sentencing on drug charges. All sides, including the judge, outlined the fact a defendant is more than what is written in a presentence report.

Matthew Stearns, 25, appeared in 5th District Court Wednesday for sentencing on drug charges. All sides, including the judge, outlined the fact a defendant is more than what is written in a presentence report. (Stace Hall, KSL-TV)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

ST. GEORGE — In a federal courtroom in St. George on Wednesday, a defendant was sentenced to federal prison. But that was not before all sides, including the judge, outlined both the difficulties and the rewards associated with substance abuse – and the fact a defendant is more than what is written in a presentence report.

Matthew Stearns, 25, appeared in federal court for sentencing on possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

The case stems from an arrest in February that started with an overdose call from a motel in St. George. When officers arrived, they found paramedics working on the suspect. Once Stearns was out of medical danger, he was detained while officers recovered heroin and methamphetamine from inside of the room, along with other evidence.

He was subsequently taken into custody by police and booked into jail on two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, felony possession and unlawful acquisition of a financial card. He was also booked on an active warrant issued by the U.S. Marshal's Service, according to a probable cause statement in support of the arrest.

During sentencing on Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Reddish-Day said the government had no objection to the plea agreement of 24 months in prison, as opposed to the sentencing guidelines set forth in the presentence report that recommended a prison sentence ranging from 70-87 months.

Day contended that Stearns was found with a minimal amount of methamphetamine – 13 grams – and stated the defendant wanted to participate in a drug court program from the start, adding the Rise federal drug court program would be appropriate, as "Stearns is clearly a drug addict" she said, and he would benefit from such a program.

She closed by saying the defendant is only 25 years old, and while his criminal history was "disturbing" she said it relates almost exclusively to his drug addiction. While the agreement was highly unusual, it still allows for a significant amount of time that would hang over the defendant's head. At the same time, it carried an element of mercy by allowing for a reduced prison term that would also include treatment the defendant clearly needs.

Read the full article at St. George News.

Cody Blowers

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