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Taneytown man convicted of distributing heroin, possession with intent to distribute

Taneytown man convicted of distributing heroin, possession with intent to distribute
Gregory Michael Gunther was sentenced to a total of 27 years in prison with all but four and a half years suspended for heroin distribution charges. Full story: http://bit.ly/1QbIdgr (HANDOUT)

A Taneytown man was sentenced to a total of 27 years in prison with all but four and a half years suspended for heroin distribution charges Wednesday.

Gregory Michael Gunther, 29, of the 100 block of Carnival Drive, pleaded not guilty but agreed not to challenge the state's version of the facts to one count of distribution of heroin and one count of possession of heroin with the intent to distribute.

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Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Michael M. Galloway sentenced Gunther to 15 years with all but three years suspended for the distribution charge and 12 years with all but 18 months suspended for the intent to distribute charge. The sentences will be served consecutively. Gunther also received credit for 245 days served.

Gunther was arrested in April 2014 for selling heroin to an undercover police officer in Taneytown a few months earlier, according to the statement of facts read into the record by Deputy State's Attorney Edward Coyne.

On Sept. 3, members of the Carroll County Drug Task Force conducted a "trash run" at Gunther's residence and found discarded small blue bags with suspected heroin residue, Coyne said.

A trash run is a task force technique in which investigators take trash off the curb of a suspect's residence and go through it looking for evidence of drug crimes, according to Coyne.

A search and seizure warrant was obtained then executed Sept. 24, according to Coyne, and police found 17 plastic bags of heroin, eight individually wrapped packages of heroin, a digital scale, small empty bags and a rifle.

"He hasn't learned from his mistakes yet," Coyne said, citing the fact that after being arrested in April, Gunther appears to have continued to sell drugs. Coyne requested that Gunther serve 10 years in prison.

Coyne also submitted evidence under seal of an investigation into a March 2014 heroin overdose in which Gunther is implicated but not charged. Police seized blue bags like the ones found in Gunther's trash and a cellphone with texts between the overdose victim and a person whom Coyne identified as Gunther.

Coyne said the texts appear to show a drug deal being set up.

"There's no question that the defendant is contributing to the heroin epidemic by dealing," Coyne said.

Public defender Diane Lach objected to the introduction of the evidence, accusing Coyne of attempting to inflame the public. She said if police had enough evidence to charge Gunther with distribution in relation to the overdose, they would have done so.

Galloway overruled Lach's objection.

"I'm not the public and I'm not the press, and if there's one thing I pride myself on, it's not being easily inflamed," Galloway said.

Lach told Galloway that Gunther is a heroin addict who sold the drug to support his habit. She said he has been applying to sober homes, lining up jobs for after he is released and applying to Carroll Community College. He also participated in the jail's drug treatment program.

"He used his time that he was across the street [at the detention center] making a plan, looking to his future," she said.

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Gunther apologized to his family and the community for his actions.

"I have not lived up to my potential," he said. "I'll be 30 years old this year, and I have nothing to show for it."

Galloway told Gunther he could not ignore the fact that he was distributing heroin, though he recognized that he was also struggling with addiction. He also said he was glad Gunther has not overdosed and has the opportunity to seek treatment.

Once Gunther has served a portion of his sentence, Galloway said he would consider a motion for modification to allow him to enter a substance abuse treatment facility.

Galloway took the opportunity to comment on the heroin problem in the county.

"What we have in this community is an epidemic," Galloway said. "People are dying, and the people that aren't dying are living in misery; their families are in misery."

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