ELKTON — A North East man was sentenced to time served — slightly more than 15 months — after a jury found him guilty of three counts of simple drug possession at the conclusion of a half-day trial on Wednesday.
During his testimony on Wednesday morning, the defendant, Lamont E. Hall, 47, admitted ownership of a bag of crystal meth, a baggie of raw heroin and nine bundles of heroin mixed with fentanyl — all of which investigators had found during a pat-down search of him in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven in the 200 block of East Pulaski Highway (Route 40) at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2020.
Hall testified that he was a drug user and that, shortly before Elkton Police Department officers had searched him and the Chrysler 300, he had replenished his supply of narcotics in preparation to celebrate his birthday weekend at home, which was where he was headed when stopped.
The defendant explained that he had stocked up on his personal drug supply because he wanted to avoid having to leave his residence at some point during the weekend to get more. (Hall was arrested on a Thursday night. His birthday is Jan. 14, which would have fallen on a Tuesday last year.)
Hall maintained on the witness stand that the drugs EPD investigators confiscated from him were intended for his personal consumption.
Charging documents indicate that Hall, who appeared to be under the influence at the traffic stop scene, was cooperative with investigators. Hall admitted that he alone owned the drug paraphernalia that officers found inside the vehicle, which was also occupied by a driver who was not charged, in addition to the narcotics seized from him.
Moreover, according to court records and state testimony, as well as his own, Hall volunteered to officers that there was a registered shotgun in the vehicle’s trunk and that the weapon belonged to a friend who had borrowed the car and inadvertently left it there.
On Wednesday, after deliberating about two hours and 45 minutes, the Cecil County Circuit Court jury found Hall guilty of possession of heroin, possession of fentanyl and possession of methamphetamine.
The jury, however, acquitted Hall of two of the more serious charges against him — possession of a controlled and dangerous substance with intent to distribute, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Also relating to not guilty findings, Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes granted mid-trial judgments of acquittal from charges relating to possession of a firearm in the commission of a drug trafficking crime, illegal possession of ammunition, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and a third count of possession of a controlled and dangerous substance with intent to distribute.
Baynes granted those judgments of acquittal in response to a defense motion that Hall’s lawyer, Michael J. Halter, made after the state had rested its case. Halter successfully argued that prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of proof regarding those charges.
Moments after the jury returned their guilty verdicts, the judge imposed three maximum one-year sentences on Hall and ordered them to be concurrent.
The sentences levied by the judge translated to a one-year jail term.
At the time of Wednesday’s trial and sentencing, Hall had already served roughly three months more than that one-year term. The judge gave Hall credit for the 467 days that he had served in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond as a pre-trial inmate after his arrest. Hall was released from the county jail shortly after sentencing on Wednesday, according to court records.
(The sentences imposed by Baynes also exceeded state sentencing guidelines, which set a penalty range of three to six months of active incarceration for Hall. State sentencing guidelines are based on a defendant’s criminal record, if any, and other factors.)
Charging documents show that an EPD officer started his investigation at about 9:20 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2020, after receiving a complaint about a man seen “drinking and nodding out” inside a Chrysler in the Royal Farms parking lot in the 1000 block of Route 40.
While en route, the officer received a dispatch indicating that the car had left the business property and was heading west on Route 40, police said. The officer saw a car matching the description of the suspect vehicle moments later as it made a right turn onto White Hall Road, allegedly failing to yield to oncoming traffic, which caused motorists to apply their brakes and beep their horns, police added.
The suspect vehicle then pulled into the 7-Eleven parking lot on a corner of that intersection, and the EPD officer pulled behind the parked car with the emergency lights flashing on his patrol vehicle, court records show. While speaking with Hall, who was in the front-passenger seat, the officer noticed a suspect crack pipe in the front passenger’s side door, according to court records. That observation led to the probable-cause search of Hall and of the vehicle, police reported.