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Stories Added - June 2009
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Sheats gets 35 years for meth
Polk County Enterprise - June 2009
BY CHARLES K.
LIVINGSTON – Jurors found Robert Lynn Sheats, 31, guilty for fi rst-degree felony possession of just over 20 grams of methamphetamine in Judge Elizabeth Coker’s 258th District Court Tuesday. As this is his third felony conviction, he is subject to enhanced sentencing which carries a minimum of 25 years to life. He consented to a sentencing agreement requiring him to serve 35 years rather than allow the jury to decide his punishment. Lt. Andy Lowrie, narcotics department supervisor for the Polk County Sheriff’s Offi ce was on his way to work when he saw Sheats’ truck parked outside of Andy Weaver’s welding shop. He had previously arrested Weaver on narcotics charges and knew from confi dential sources Sheats had been distributing methamphetamine to Weaver, who would be arrested again later that day. Lowrie decided to pull over and watch for a while. The stakeout lasted a little more than half an hour before Sheats left the welding shop. He pulled onto Hwy. 190 and began to drive away. Lowrie allowed him to drive out of view of the welding shop before pulling him over so as not to alert anyone inside of a potential raid should the traffi c stop prove fruitful. He approached Sheats’ truck from the passenger side and opened the door to confront him.
Traffic on the driver’s side made it unsafe. Lowrie said traffic stops “are a good tool to meet people. You get different indicators like when a person is not willing to look you in the eye. You get to see how people act.” During the discussion Sheats was asked to get out of the truck. He agreed to a search. Lowrie felt an object in his right front pocket and reached in to find what it was. He pulled out a loosely rolled wad of money and noticed a small blue baggie stuck in the bills.
He immediately pushed the contents back into Sheats’ pocket and placed him under arrest. “It was in the money,” Lowrie said. “The roll of money was loose and I could see the baggie.” He handcuffed Sheats and placed him on the ground before calling for backup, instructing the dispatcher not to repeat what he had called in so as not to alert anyone inside the welding shop. The rest of his communications with the dispatcher and other officers was done by cell phone. The plastic bag in Sheats’ front pocket contained 1.54 grams of meth. A search of the truck turned up another 18.43 grams, a pipe and a digital scale used to weigh drugs. The total haul has an estimated street value of just over $2,000, according to Lowrie. “A half gram or a full gram is a typical purchase for a user,” Lowrie said.
“A gram could go in a day or it could last a week. It just depends on the user.” After a brief recess Sheats was set to take the stand in his own defense. Before the jury was brought back to the courtroom he was advised to hear the admonishment from First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Joseph Martin III. An admonishment reminds the defendant what could potentially be entered into evidence, such as cell phone records and even previous convictions, not otherwise admissible had he not taken the stand. After hearing the admonishment, Sheats asked for a moment to consult with his attorney. A fiveminute discussion of what might be used against him left him second-guessing his decision. He declined to take the stand in his own defense.
His attorney’s plea to the jury for the right to be left alone and not be hassled wasn’t enough. “We shouldn’t just start throwing away our civil liberties,” Defense Attorney Nancy Bierman said. “They haven’t given us any new ones. Are we willing to throw that aside just to get a couple of baggies off the street?” The prosecution had the last word before the jury was dismissed. “You do your best to keep a lid on it,” Martin said. Every bag we take off the street may be a lost opportunity for a child who would otherwise have gotten hold of it and possibly become hooked. We hold dear our right not to be subject to the scourge of methamphetamine.” The jury deliberated for about an hour before returning with a guilty verdict. Court was adjourned for the evening, with the sentencing phase to begin the next morning.
The sentencing phase is much different from the actual trial. To maintain fairness during a trial evidence is often withheld because it might sway a jury’s verdict by distracting them from the charges at hand. During sentencing evidence related to prior bad acts not related to the charge can be introduced. This evidence is often used to establish the character of the convicted defendant.
“One of the earliest uses of methamphetamine was during World War II when the German military dispensed it under the trade name Pervitin,” according to Wikipedia. “It was widely distributed across rank and division, from elite forces to tank crews and aircraft personnel. Chocolates dosed with methamphetamine were known as Fliegerschokolade (“airmen’s chocolate”) when given to pilots, or Panzerschokolade (“tank chocolate”) when given to tank crews. Adolf Hitler may have been given intravenous injections of methamphetamine by his personal physician, Theodor Morell.” In Sheats’ truck was found a copy of the Aryan Brotherhood Constitution, corresponding teaching material and by-laws for the organization. A copy of David Lane’s 88 Precepts was found as well. It is an “essay written by Lane, a member of the white supremacist terrorist organization The Order,” according to Wikipedia.
“Written while Lane was serving a 190-year prison sentence, 88 Precepts is a guideline for securing and establishing a white society, and is an expansion upon Lane’s own Fourteen Words. 88 Precepts is commonly used by white supremacy groups and those who advocate white nationalism and separatism.” “The number “88” is also used by white supremacists to represent “Heil Hitler”, as “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet,” Wikipedia states. In 1998 Sheats was found guilty on 10 counts of possession of explosive weapons. He was found to have 10 pipe bombs in his possession which he claimed was for fishing.
“That was for fishing in the country,” Sheats said during the sentencing phase. “You can get it at Carter’s Country. You just light it and stick it in the water and the fish come up.” He received deferred adjudication but failed to honor the agreement and was placed on “real” probation, according to Martin. He violated that probation as well, with two third-degree felony weapons possession charges, one in 2002 followed by a five-year prison sentence and the other in 2006 which netted him another couple of years in the state pen. He had been out of prison for only nine months when Lowrie spotted his truck that morning at Weaver’s welding shop. “Enough is enough,” Martin told the jury.
“He has been given all the chances that a decent society is entitled to give.” Other items found in Sheats’ truck were names and numbers for people who are known drug users, and maps to some of their houses. Martin tried his best to get information saved in Sheats’ cell phone admitted as evidence, but those attempts were blocked by the defense attorney. The phone had not been registered in his name and it could not be proven to be his.
“This is the cell phone he was very nervously switching from hand to hand because he didn’t know what to do with it?” Martin asked Lowrie. Lowrie confirmed that it was. Sgt. Miguel Ramirez from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Lewis Unit in Woodville was called to testify. He is part of a security-threat group within the prison system aimed at identifying gang members from the prison population. This group uses tattoos, items found in an inmate’s cell and information from other inmates and law enforcement officials to discern whether an inmate is part of a gang. It is a full-time job for Ramirez.
“The Aryan Brotherhood is well known. It is not the largest gang recognized by the State of Texas but it has been around for a number of years,” Ramirez said. He said gangs in the prison system typically get involved in extortion, drug trafficking and trading, recruiting, gang-related assaults and even homicide. “Every gang has rules and regulations they go by,” Ramirez said. “If a non-member had their literature there would be serious, serious consequences.” One of the tattoos commonly found on Aryan Brotherhood members are the letters G.F.B.D which means God Forgives, Brotherhood Don’t. Sheats has this tattoo and claims those letters mean Good Friends and Better Days in memory of friends he has lost over the years. “Sheats had previously been listed as a suspected gang member,” according to Ramirez, during a previous prison stay.
“He was ID’d but not confirmed,” Ramirez said. “I would say he is a member of the Brotherhood of the Aryan Race.” The defense had one character witness it wanted to call after Sheats TRIAL From Page 1A left the stand, but that witness was not allowed to testify. He had been sitting in the courtroom during all of the previous testimony, which is not allowed of a potential witness. Bierman had arrived late to court that morning and apparently didn’t realize her witness was in the room. She had no choice but to rest her case. While the testimony that morning was going on, investigator Mark Jones reviewed phone records made from the jail the night before to see if he could find anything incriminating. Conversations by jail inmates are recorded. Inmates are warned of this with every call and any information gained can be used in court.
He quickly called Jones to the stand even though he did not yet have the phone records. “We have access to inmate phone calls to the outside world,” Jones said. “In the recording I heard him speaking with an outside contact. He told this person he did not take the stand because of his priors and because of his affiliations.” Martin asked District Judge Elizabeth Coker to grant him a recess to give him time to get the recording transcribed for the court. As it was time for lunch anyway the judge agreed to the break. The new evidence proved to be the final straw that convinced the defense to agree to the sentence offered by prosecutors. Following the recess there was some discussion among the attorneys.
“You’ll waive his appeal?” Assistant District Attorney Kaycee Jones asked. Yes, we will waive his appeal,” Bierman said. They left the courtroom to sign the necessary paperwork to agree to a sentence and end the trial before the jury was given the opportunity to decide Sheats’ fate. He agreed to serve a 35-year prison sentence and to waive his right to an appeal. He will be eligible for parole after serving 25 percent of that sentence.
“Good luck to you sir,” Coker said as she handed down the sentence.