St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin was asked if he felt the sentences the DePriests received Tuesday were appropriate.
Mahurin said factors included the amount of marijuana Natalie and David DePriest had and that they “were moving,” and this was not a first-time marijuana case.
He believes by the weight they were moving, the DePriests were “affecting a lot of people across the county, so they got what they deserved.”
In his arguments during the sentencing hearing, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Pat King said the DePriests had a large-scale grow operation that was illogical to believe was for their own benefit. He added they had guns and bullet-proof vests.
Mahurin, who was on vacation at the time of the sentencing, said Viets pled open cases (no plea agreement) knowing Natalie and David DePriest could get the maximum sentence. He said Viets turned down all plea offers that his office had offered.
“When you turn down all plea offers, you run the risk of getting a big sentence,” Mahurin said Thursday afternoon.
Mahurin said Viets was so sure that his clients were going to get probation.
It wasn’t just the prosecutor’s office recommending against probation. In this circuit, Presiding Judge Kenneth W. Pratte requires the Board of Probation and Parole to make a recommendation in each Sentencing Assessment Report ordered.
Both reports for the DePriests recommended against probation, according to the judge during the hearing — as these reports are confidential. David DePriest’s report showed that he had a prior drug felony while in the military, which his attorney denied. It was stated Natalie DePriest had nothing other than a previous bad check charge.
Mahurin said he’s seen longer sentences for similar cases.
Now, will Natalie and David DePriest have to serve 15 and 22 years, respectively, behind bars? Most likely not.
“They will serve a very small fraction (of the sentence) because of Probation and Parole guidelines,” Mahurin said.
While the majority of readers who commented on the original Daily Journal article about the sentencing — whether on Daily Journal Online or the newspaper’s Facebook page — seemed upset about the sentencing, there were several in favor of the sentencing because marijuana is illegal.
One reader posted, “Don't break the law, agree or not, the law is the controlling factor, if you live on the edge ultimately you will fall one way or the other.”
A woman posted, “Forget the drug ... what about all the weapons? Obviously there's more going on here than a pot organization. Mix drugs and weapons ... this is more than leisurely consumption.”
Another posted, “I'm extremely happy with Pratte's decision! Finally 2 people are actually going to pay for their actions. Now if only every law breaker would get just sentences. I personally don't think private consumption of pot is any worse than alcohol, growing it, firearms, bullet proof vests aren't private consumption attire ...”
Another posted, “Pot is an illegal drug, they need to go to prison. I do agree they should be sentencing worse crimes more time, but I guess that what happens when one person has the power over your life. For something you know is illegal ... and you do it and get caught.”
Yet another posted, “First of all no one's parent had any money to get them off, this isn't the first time Dave got into trouble. Selling and growing is illegal. The guns, bulletproof vests, ammo made it worse for them. I am not going to argue about this topic. It's against the law period.”
Another reader raised a point about legislation to another blogger who suggested voting the judge and prosecutor out of office. This person stated, “I find your argument very disturbing. Now, I have no argument with your premise that child molesters should get longer sentences, I personally think life, but to assert that a judge and prosecutor should be removed for sending two people to prison for breaking the law is stupid. Rather than fight to remove these two you should encourage people to call and write their legislators to change the laws making child molestation have longer sentences with no plea bargaining or mandatory minimums and to reduce the consequences for marijuana offenses....”