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Manchester man sentenced to 15 years following guilty plea for heroin distribution

Manchester man sentenced to 15 years following guilty plea for heroin distribution
Heze Jones Jr. (Courtesy Photo)

Heze Jones, 32, submitted a guilty plea to distribution of heroin before Judge Barry Hughes in the Circuit Court for Carroll County on Monday, Dec. 10, after selling heroin and crack cocaine to a detective in July.

Hughes sentenced Jones to 15 years in the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services as part of a binding plea agreement. Maryland sentencing guidelines call for a sentence between 12 and 20 years.

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Additional related possession charges were declared nolle prosequi, meaning the court chose not to pursue the charges.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Courtney Colonese read the statement of facts accompanying the charge that, on July 5, an undercover detective of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office texted the number of an identified drug dealer known as Rello and identified as Jones in order to arrange the purchase of heroin and crack cocaine.

They agreed to meet at the Five Below in Westminster where the officer exchanged cash with Jones for two baggies. Maryland State Police Crime Lab tested the baggies, and found one to contain heroin and one to contain cocaine.

Jones’ defense attorney, Thomas Hickman, addressed the court and said that Jones had had a difficult upbringing in the foster care system since the age of 2.

Jones served prison time previously, Hickman said, where he learned to cut hair as a trade, but could not find work doing so outside of prison without a license and could not afford the fees for certification.

Jones addressed the court personally and spoke about his background, but said he did not want to use it as an excuse.

“I know what I was doing was not right, but I am not a bad person,” he said. He did not want people to overdose and said he did not cut heroin with other substances like fentanyl.

He said others might think he was “crazy” for saying that, but “I want a chance at life. I want to do the right thing,” he said.

When he got out of jail, he applied at barber shops, but couldn’t get hired without a certification and couldn’t get financial aid to go for certification because of his criminal record.

As a child, in the third foster family he was placed with, his foster father would make him administer intravenous heroin. He met his biological brother in 2004, but his brother was a drug dealer in Baltimore who was fatally shot while Jones was in the car with him. When Jones graduated from Bowling Brook, he was accepted to college, but at age 19, he was convicted of armed robbery.

He took the conviction, even though it interrupted his life and stopped him from getting a degree, to avoid being labeled a snitch, he said.

“If they don’t get you, they’re going to get your family,” Jones said.

Jones is married and has four children.

He said he planned to write more than a hundred letters to his children during his sentence, and wanted to be there for them when he got out and if he could, support other people who have a background like his where they felt “stuck in a spiderweb.”

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“I want to be an advocate. I want to be a voice,” he said.

In the Carroll County Detention Center, he had attended a drug program in a group setting for the first time, and said that having support from others made a huge difference and was something he had not had before in his life.

Hughes said he felt that Jones’ address was sincere and from the heart. He thanked him for not trying to put off his responsibility for the distribution charge. He asked Jones to tell him about his children.

“When I’m at home, I don’t feel like a drug dealer. … They’re the only people I’m still normal around,” Jones said.

Hughes advised him to not let pride stop him from reaching out for resources. In the DOC, despite social pressures, Hughes hoped he would keep his nose clean because infractions would make it harder to get into drug treatment programs. With evaluation and modification, the sentence in reality ‘is not 15 years unless you really screw up,” he said.

“Think about those little girls’ faces,” he said. “Your goal is to be able to get right for them.”

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