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Former sheriff gets 4 years' prison for meth bust

Public safety officials such as police officers and firefighters are charged with protecting the public. When one of these individuals violates a legal requirement, it is more likely that they will receive a harsh sentence because of their previous pledges to uphold the law.

A former Rooks County Sheriff received a significantly more serious consequence than a private citizen would have for his connection with a methamphetamine distribution scandal. The 44-year-old suspect had pleaded guilty to four felony drug charges, including counts of distributing drugs near school property.

The prosecutor in the case had requested a maximum sentence that ran consecutively, which would have landed the man in jail for 64 months. Instead, the defense attorney was able to argue for a shorter sentence, allowing all terms to run concurrently, which means his sentence was shortened to 49 months. Attorneys say that the man might have only received probation if he was a private citizen, but his status as sheriff added extra responsibility.

Lawyers in the case have said that an appeal is unlikely.

The man appeared remorseful during the courtroom proceedings, telling attendees that the other officers in the room deserved an apology. He acknowledged his guilt, saying that he had failed as an enforcement officer. During the three-hour sentencing, defense attorneys convinced the judge to depart from traditional sentencing guidelines to account for the man's difficult financial and family situations. The sheriff's marriage was reportedly on the rocks, and his 19-year-old disabled daughter requires constant care. Those factors increased the personal and professional stress the man experienced, which led him to violate the law.

The man's wife pleaded with courtroom officials to grant the man probation, largely because she cannot care for their daughter alone. She said at least 10 assistants have quit their caretaking positions with the family because the strain was too great. Other officers that testified in the case advocated jail time, however, because of the reported seriousness of the man's crimes.

Source: The Hays Daily News, "Judge sentences Axelson to prison," Mike Corn, Jan. 16, 2013.

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