CHRISTIANSBURG — Grayson Scott Hamlett needed drug rehabilitation as he faced years in prison on a distribution charge — but the coronavirus pandemic shut down the program he entered, one of his attorneys said Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
“It was a real hard time for people with addiction,” attorney Tony Anderson of Roanoke said about the various restrictions and changes that arrived in March as worries spread about COVID-19.
Hamlett, 48, of Roanoke was one of 23 people charged in the long-running Operation Crankdown methamphetamine case, which centered on a Georgia-to-Blacksburg drug pipeline that operated in 2017 and the start of 2018. All 23 defendants were convicted. Hamlett was one of three still to be sentenced.
Hamlett entered a no-contest plea in September and was convicted of distributing a Schedule I or II drug. On Tuesday, Anderson said Hamlett’s “real issue was one of addiction.”
“He used as much as he assisted with selling,” the attorney added.
Sober after his arrest in February 2019, Hamlett resumed using drugs late last year while free on bond, Anderson said. Hamlett sought help and was accepted for a residential program.
But then the pandemic hit and the program switched to a remote, online version. That was not effective for Hamlett, Anderson said.
Successful rehab would have been a basis to argue for a suspended sentence, Anderson said. But with Hamlett still using, Anderson said he was asking instead for time behind bars.
“You’re going to get a time-out to address this addiction,” Anderson told Hamlett, who nodded behind his face mask.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz noted that all the Operation Crankdown defendants could say their addiction led them into the case.
Hamlett’s charge carried a possible sentence of five to 40 years in prison. Wolz asked that he be required to serve three years, with a longer sentence suspended.
Hamlett removed his mask and said he was sorry for his actions. “I know I have a problem. I need help,” Hamlett said.
Judge Robert Turk imposed a 10-year prison term, to be suspended after Hamlett serves a year and 10 months. Hamlett will be supervised by the probation office for five years after his release and his driver’s license will be suspended for six months, Turk said.
“Addiction doesn’t relieve you of consequences,” Turk said.
The judge said he hoped Hamlett would regain sobriety in prison, then enter rehab upon his release. He wished him the best of luck.
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