Supreme Court sends meth case sent back for resentencing

Published 7:32 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

The state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Brookhaven man who appealed his 40-year sentence for possession of methamphetamine.

Maurice Guss, 30, was indicted in 2016 for possession of more than 200 grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in violation of the aggravated trafficking statue. The jury, however, was only instructed on intent to distribute 30 or more grams of methamphetamine; therefore, Guss was only convicted of possession of 30 or more grams with intent to distribute the drug.

This difference in the amount of methamphetamine means he should now be sentenced under the more lenient “trafficking” law rather than the “aggravated trafficking” law.

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While the Supreme Court justices found sufficient evidence for Guss’ conviction, they believe the sentence was improper. They remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing.

Court records show that Guss accepted a package in June 2016, which was delivered as part of sting operation. The package had been mailed from California and was addressed to Danielle Armond. United States Postal Inspector Dwayne Martin delivered the package to Guss and then signaled agents, who moved in toward the house. Guss fled through the back door and surrendered as agents swarmed the yard.

After executing a search warrant, officers found cocaine, a gun, marijuana, digital scales and the unopened package that had just been delivered. Later, it was determined the package contained 412.52 grams of methamphetamine, 1.32 grams of marijuana, and .34 grams of cocaine. Crack cocaine was found in a safe in the master bedroom.

Guss claims the evidence was insufficient to show he had knowledge that the package he accepted from the United States Postal Service contained methamphetamine. The court disagrees.

Guss was indicted under the “aggravated trafficking” statute for possession of 200 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The sentence for conviction under this statute spans 25 years to life in prison, with the first 25 years being mandatory. The trial court sentenced Guss under this statute.

The jury, however, was only instructed to consider whether Guss was in possession of 30 or more grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and this option was check marked on the court’s verdict form. Accordingly, Guss was only convicted of “trafficking,” which carries a sentence for not less than 10 years and not over 40, with the first 10 years mandatory.

The State concedes that because Guss was convicted for possession of 30 grams or more of methamphetamine, he should have been sentenced for trafficking and not aggravated trafficking.