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Hephzibah commission chairman's son gets probation for trafficking cocaine

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 7:07 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 1:44 AM
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The son of Hephzibah’s City Commission chairman, caught with more than two ounces of cocaine, was spared the usual mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence Wednesday for trafficking the drug.



John Buchwitz, 21, pleaded guilty in a Richmond County Superior Court courtroom packed with supporters Wednesday morning in a plea negotiation approved by District Attorney Ashley Wright.

Judge J. Wade Padgett accepted the plea agreement for a 10-year probation sentence with 180 days in the probation detention center, and a $25,000 fine. He granted defense attorney Victor Hawk’s request to sentence Buchwitz under the First Offender Act.

“Make no mistake about it,” Padgett told Buchwitz, “you are a drug dealer.” It’s ironic that everyone screams about locking up drug dealers and throwing away the key unless it’s someone they know, the judge said.

On May 14 in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Deans Bridge Road, Buchwitz sold 10 grams of cocaine to a confidential informant, Assistant District Attorney Adam Land said. The next day, in the same parking lot, Buchwitz arrived with 59.6 grams for a meeting with the informant, whom Buchwitz believed intended to pay him $2,000 for two ounces.

Buchwitz, the son of Hephzibah commission member Robert Buchwitz, admitted to investigators that he had sold cocaine before and this time intended to profit by $200.

In the past 10 years in Richmond County Superior Court, 247 people facing trafficking cocaine charges have pleaded guilty or have been convicted of felonies, according to court records analyzed by The Augusta Chronicle. About a third – 89 defendants – got probation; the rest did prison time. Of those sentenced to straight probation terms, only 2 percent pleaded guilty to trafficking in cocaine. The rest pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute the drug or simple possession.

In Georgia, trafficking cocaine at the amount Buchwitz intended to sell is a crime punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Trafficking cocaine requires a minimum 10-year prison term except in cases where the prosecutor requests a reduction because of substantial assistance rendered to police.

Wright said the exception was used in Buchwitz’s case. Neither his father’s political standing nor the family’s position in the community had any bearing on her office’s request for the judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence, Wright said.

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CobaltGeorge
170231
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/21/13 - 08:11 pm
10
4
Sounds

almost like what is taken place in the oval office.

"Wright said the exception was used in Buchwitz’s case. Neither his father’s political standing nor the family’s position in the community had any bearing on her office’s request for the judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence, Wright said."

Fiat_Lux
16205
Points
Fiat_Lux 08/21/13 - 08:15 pm
4
7
Whoa.

Do you think Al or Jesse will come down and protest this?

like-it-is
336
Points
like-it-is 08/21/13 - 08:33 pm
5
2
WHAT?

I guess everyone else going to want to get off easy also after this.

jrsc429
405
Points
jrsc429 08/21/13 - 08:38 pm
7
1
first offender, but has sold before

"...attorney Victor Hawk requested that Buchwitz be sentenced under the First Offender Act." "...Buchwitz...admitted to investigators that he sold cocaine before..." So even with the admission, Buchwitz still gets First Offender status? And what was the "substantial assistance rendered to police"?

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/21/13 - 08:40 pm
4
3
It was in the news

Don't you remember just a few days before this that prosecutors were supposed to try to find any loophole they could to avoid imposition of minimum sentencing guidelines.

Buchwitz was not lucky because of his father. He got lucky because of the timing of Attorney General Eric Holder's order to Justice Department attorneys. Sure, the above is a state charge, but the state officials can read between the lines and follow suit.

Little Lamb
47928
Points
Little Lamb 08/21/13 - 08:45 pm
2
3
@ jrsc429

Let me explain. The first offender act applies to crimes for which you are caught. Sure, Buchwitz admitted to previous crimes, but he was not caught, arraigned, charged, indicted, tried, etc.

dichotomy
36205
Points
dichotomy 08/21/13 - 09:57 pm
12
3
'Neither his father’s

'Neither his father’s political standing nor the family’s position in the community had any bearing on her office’s request for the judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence"

Oh please. You can pee on my head but don't try to tell me it's just raining. If it was your kid or my kid they would have gotten the 10 hard.

He is 21 years old.....not some little misguided teen. He admitted to having been dealing a while. He is a FULL GROWN DRUG DEALER and doesn't even have that "poor little me" socio-economic EXCUSE as a mitigating factor. Shame on the prosecutor and shame on you Judge Padgett for going along with it.

This is why we have no respect for our judges, prosecutors, and politicians.

thauch12
6975
Points
thauch12 08/21/13 - 10:10 pm
3
4
Simple solution

As unpopular as it may be with you old-timers, I am a huge fan of this plea deal. Rather than becoming a $1,000,000+ burden to the taxpaying public, taking up space in our already overcrowded jails, and wasting away his life, this young man has been sentenced to 180 days in what is essentially boot camp where he is FORCED to serve the community through public service. Locking up drug dealers is NOT solution...just look at where we have gotten because of it.

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 08/21/13 - 11:34 pm
6
1
Conflicted

on how I feel about this decision. On one hand, I can tell you this kid has the potential to do good, be productive, and make a difference in this world.

On the other, he has been counseled by many on the paths he chooses. And the role models he has chosen to emulate are less than stellar.

In the end, there comes a time when a kid becomes a man, and he has to discern right from wrong and make his own choices.

In this case, right, wrong or indifferent, this young man has been given a second chance bigger than he may realize. What he does with it will determine his destiny. I suspect Judge Padgett and DA Wright will not look favorably on a second appearance before them. Jacque Hawk is an artful and talented defender, and no doubt used up valuable vouchers for this verdict. At a price, I am sure.

As a parent, I can only imagine the stress and worry experienced by Mom and Dad leading up to this day, and the financial burden will, no doubt, be on them. A $25,000 fine is nothing to sneeze at!

My hope is, sincerely, that this young man will learn from this experience and improve his lot in life. That he will recognize escaping the jaws of the gator and be thankful for the freedom he will experience, which so many before in the same circumstance will never enjoy. And that he will prosper, contribute, and never forget how close he flew to the fire without getting burned.

Lets be sure we pull these youngsters close and advise them, every chance we get. Hellfire, If we just condemn them when they screw up, what good are we doing?

As I said, I am conflicted!!

tanbaby
1306
Points
tanbaby 08/22/13 - 03:13 am
0
0
hope nobody is surprised by
Unpublished

hope nobody is surprised by this outcome....

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 08/22/13 - 03:38 am
7
2
Rebel, I'm Not

Legalize drugs and spend the billions saved on law enforcement, the judicial system and prisons to educate and treat users. The war on drugs is an abject failure that has produced more gangs and violence than Prohibition in addition to putting more people in prison. It's time to try something else. Goodness, I agree with Eric Holder, but I've been saying decriminalize drugs for years.

myfather15
55844
Points
myfather15 08/22/13 - 04:16 am
5
6
"Lets be sure we pull these

"Lets be sure we pull these youngsters close and advise them, every chance we get. Hellfire, If we just condemn them when they screw up, what good are we doing?"

Certainly not; we should NEVER condemn a grown man, for financially gaining off the demise of other human beings, by selling them poison!! When they get to the point of selling 2 ounces of cocaine, I couldn't care less about embracing them!! LOCK THEM UP!!

Are you going to try to sit there and tell me there are kids in school today who haven't heard that you shouldn't sell drugs? That you shouldn't do drugs? We beat it into peoples heads daily, how bad drugs are; but GREED gets the best of these pieces of filth!! They care more about MONEY than the condition of other human lives!!!

I've got something better we could do with them and it would save us a LOT of money, if we ran the system right!!!

myfather15
55844
Points
myfather15 08/22/13 - 04:22 am
5
8
"The war on drugs is an

"The war on drugs is an abject failure that has produced more gangs and violence than Prohibition in addition to putting more people in prison."

Oooh yes!! The war on drugs is the reason these gangs exist; I've heard this before!! No way they would exist if drugs were legalized!! No way these gangs would CONTINUE selling drugs on the street, EVEN IF legalized; just like they do alcohol, firearms, gambling, fencing, etc. I guess they would have to steal more cars and chop them up, to make up the lost profit!!

Those guys are criminals for a reason!! Most of them will never be legit!! They will always FIND a way to make money illegally!! If they legalize drugs, the government will have to regulate the sale; so the gangs and dealers WILL STILL sell it on the streets!! Yes, it would put a big dent in their "business" but it would survive. They would just have to sell more to teenagers who can't legally buy the product!

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 08/22/13 - 04:48 am
8
2
A 21 year old GROWN MAN is

A 21 year old GROWN MAN is not a youngster!

And that's a huge part of the problem, people that want to regard ADULTS as "children".

When I was 21, I was married for 2 years, working full-time and going to school, and about to become a mother.

I was an adult. I knew right from wrong, and I wasn't out committing crimes.

Maybe Sonny Boy needs to grow up and act like a man and get a J-O-B.

Because if he keeps this up, he's either going to be killed or go to prison.

Bodhisattva
6826
Points
Bodhisattva 08/22/13 - 04:57 am
3
2
I get the feeling the

I get the feeling the "substantial assistance rendered to police." means he should pack his bags and get out of town for awhile. It sounds like he might have dropped a dime on some folks.

justus4
109
Points
justus4 08/22/13 - 05:03 am
0
0
This is just another case of
Unpublished

This is just another case of racial sentencing which clearly demonstrates why the prison industrial complex is filled with young men of color. It further demonstrates the break-down of "justice" in the country along with any trust in the courts. This verdict fits a pattern that is shameful - nothing new here...

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 08/22/13 - 05:26 am
4
2
Oh, the drug dealers never

Oh, the drug dealers never forget who rats them out, and yeah, he sang like a canary.

oldfella
620
Points
oldfella 08/22/13 - 05:42 am
5
1
25,000 dollar fine?

Quite a chunk of change! The guy's going to have to sell a lot of drugs to make up for that loss. And if he only makes 200 dollars profit per deal, he better get busy!

wgcopeland
113
Points
wgcopeland 08/22/13 - 05:52 am
6
0
Tradition...

I'm not surprised by this sentence, it is well documented that are two different criminal justice systems, 'The Have[s] and The Have[not].'

pantherluvcik
628
Points
pantherluvcik 08/22/13 - 06:01 am
4
5
Boy I wish I could read one

Boy I wish I could read one comment thread where there is no mention of AL or JESSE JACKSON. Somebody always manages to throw their names in whether it fits the article or not. At least wait until there is a civil rights violation to throw their names up, it's getting to be a bit redundant.

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 08/22/13 - 06:02 am
2
1
Being sentenced under the

Being sentenced under the First Offender status means that he will not have a criminal record upon successful completion of his probation. So it is now up to him whether he takes advantage of this break or not.

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 08/22/13 - 06:06 am
2
1
wgcopeland- I disagree with

wgcopeland- I disagree with you. There have been many people who have been sentenced under the First Offender status that could fall under the classification of the "have-nots".

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/22/13 - 06:28 am
6
1
Yeah right!!!!

"Wright said the exception was used in Buchwitz’s case. Neither his father’s political standing nor the family’s position in the community had any bearing on her office’s request for the judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence, Wright said."

Bodhisattva
6826
Points
Bodhisattva 08/22/13 - 06:37 am
0
3
It sounded like a lot of

It sounded like a lot of product to me too for $200 bucks. The risk/pay ratio doesn't seem that great. Illegal, so you face the obvious jail sentence plus I'm guessing dealing with drug dealers is somewhat of a risky business. If the penalty's the same, should have gone big. Same risk, more reward.

nocnoc
47085
Points
nocnoc 08/22/13 - 06:50 am
6
1
Politics are alive and well

still protect those with the right connections or those that have the misfortune to be blackmailed for future political control.

my.voice
5081
Points
my.voice 08/22/13 - 07:40 am
3
1
Dont worry folks, like the

Dont worry folks, like the Terminator.......... HE WILL BE BACK.

mrsarkie
6
Points
mrsarkie 08/22/13 - 07:40 am
1
3
It makes no sense to lock up

It makes no sense to lock up a man who is working multiple legal jobs and has completely turned his life around. He is much more beneficial to the community on the outside paying his fines and service his sentence than being sent away.

thauch12
6975
Points
thauch12 08/22/13 - 07:50 am
0
2
Simple economics would tell

Simple economics would tell you that decriminalizing drugs would solve some of our problems. The reason why drugs are so valuable in the first place is because it has been pushed to the black market. Drug dealing won't make sense when the legal price undercuts the black market price because the risk margin is gone at which point the Mexican drug lords will just look silly.

Of course this makes too much sense because "drugs are bad" and personal responsibility has no place in modern America (sarcasm).

Marinerman1
5284
Points
Marinerman1 08/22/13 - 07:55 am
3
0
Time Will Tell

Only time will tell if this was the right thing to do. I used to attend church with Judge Padgett - a really fine man. But he does have a really good memory. If this 21 year-old kid stubs his toe, he'll be busting rocks for a long time. @Rebel - I truly hope you are right. @corgimom - you are right also -- dealers have good memories as well...

myfather15
55844
Points
myfather15 08/22/13 - 08:53 am
6
1
oldfella

"Quite a chunk of change! The guy's going to have to sell a lot of drugs to make up for that loss. And if he only makes 200 dollars profit per deal, he better get busy!"

It's simple!! He is LYING!! I've worked narcotics for years and a $200.00 profit is ridiculously LOW, for 2 ounces of cocaine!! He was LYING to the judge to make it appear he wasn't making much money!!

It's also much like the free market; if he is selling 2 ounces at a time, he is probably buying POUNDS, breaking them down into smaller amounts and selling. It's according to how much he is paying for a pound or Kilo of cocaine and how much he is selling an ounce for.

The bigger amount you buy (Kilo/2.2 pounds) the less you pay for the total amount!! Then the way you make money is to break it down into smaller amounts (Ounces) and sell those ounces at YOUR price. There is NO WAY of determining how much he actually made, unless you find out how much he paid for the LARGER amount, before he broke it down.

Forgive me, but I don't think I'll take a drug dealers word for it!! He made MUCH more than $200.00 on selling 2 ounces!!

We are constantly catching people on I-20, traveling towards Atlanta with $50,000.00+ in cash!! $25,000.00 is actually NOT NEAR a lot of money for a person selling OUNCES at a time!! Now, if the person is a SMALL dealer, selling a gram at a time, yeah that's a good amount. But he sounds like a pretty good size dealer!!

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