Chapel Hill man pleads guilty in drug case

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By Karen Hall


Last week in Circuit Court, Rodney Lee Harris, 33, of Harris Cemetery Road, Chapel Hill, pleaded guilty to the charge of criminal attempt to initiate the process of manufacturing methamphetamine. This was reduced from the charge on which Harris was indicted, which was initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine. He was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and simple possession of a Schedule II drug, but these charges were dismissed.

Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell sentenced Harris to six years in prison, plus a $2,000 fine and costs. Harris must serve 30 percent of his sentence before being eligible for a parole board hearing. He has 135 days jail credit. Harris' attorney was Steven M. Garner of Franklin.

The judge cannot accept a guilty plea without hearing the factual basis of the case, and this was presented by Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard.

On March 12, 2013, Barnard said, Drug Task Force agents received a call from the Department of Children's Services about children being exposed to meth being cooked. The next day, agents went to the address DCS had given them on Harris Cemetery Road, which is owned by the defendant's mother. In an outbuilding they found "all the necessary elements" to make methamphetamine, including ingredients and equipment, as well as a small amount of meth ready to smoke.

Harris was not there during the search, Barnard said.

"This is a facilitated settlement?" asked Russell.

"Correct," Barnard replied.

Also pleading guilty to drug charges Friday was a Lewisburg man who is much older than most defendants seen in court.

Vernon Stanley, 70, of Monte Murrey Road, was charged with two counts of delivery of oxycodone, one count of delivery of morphine, and one count of sale of oxycodone.

Represented by the Public Defender's Office, Stanley did not admit guilt, but made a "best interest plea" to the charge of sale of a Schedule II controlled substance (oxycodone) and the rest of his charged were dismissed. Stanley received a three-year sentence and a $2,000 fine. He will report to begin serving his sentence on April 17.

Giving the factual basis of the case against Stanley, Assistant District Attorney Bud Bottoms said on Dec. 13, 2012, 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force Agent Shane Daughrity contacted Stanley through a confidential informant, and arranged to buy 10 of his oxycodone pills for $100. Stanley admitted to agents he had been selling some of his pills to one person, but would not tell them that person's name.

Stanley's case was set for a jury trial later this month.

On trial Monday and Tuesday was Claudale R. Armstrong, 33, of Lewisburg, who is facing multiple charges relating to the sale and delivery of cocaine.

See Friday's Tribune for the verdict in this case.