The driver stopped with two nephews of the Columbia County sheriff and more than 20 pounds of marijuana pleaded guilty Monday.
James D. Hurt, 27, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to trafficking marijuana, admitting he and Kenneth Whittle, 26, and Walter Hensley, 25, drove to California to buy the marijuana and were bringing it back to Augusta when they were stopped Sept. 20.
Judge Daniel J. Craig sentenced Hurt to five years in prison followed by one year on probation under the First Offender Act. Craig also imposed a mandatory $100,000 fine.
Hurt is expected to get credit for the time he has spent in jail since his arrest.
It was Hensley’s first trip out, Hurt told narcotics officers, but Hurt and Whittle had made other trips out West to buy marijuana, said Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter.
Hurt served four years in the Army and served with the honor guard that participated in the burials and ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, his attorney Ricardo Bravo told the judge.
Hurt and Whittle were old Army buddies and Hurt followed Whittle back to Augusta when his service ended, Bravo said.
Craig said he was taking into account Hurt’s military service and his lack of any felony record in his sentencing. But Craig said he didn’t want the sentence to lead others to follow Hurt’s path.
While some states have legalized the sale of marijuana, it is still against federal law and still a crime in Georgia, Craig said. One day the country may reach an agreement on the legalization issue, Craig said, and it was Hurt’s misfortune to be guilty of the crime at this time.
Whittle and Hensley have pleaded not guilty to the charge of trafficking marijuana.