Third drug conviction brings 10-year sentence


A 47-year-old Westminster man who had been convicted in two earlier drug-related cases was sentenced yesterday to 10 years without parole after pleading guilty to two counts of cocaine distribution.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. sentenced James Carter "Sugarbear" Brightful of East Main Street to two consecutive 20-year prison terms. He suspended all but 10 years.

The judge ordered Brightful to serve the term without parole under the state's repeat-offender statute.

Brightful was the last of seven people indicted in January as a result of a months-long investigation by the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force.

All seven have been found guilty of drug charges. Brightful is the second of the group to be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In January, State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman and Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III said the county's drug task force had infiltrated several of Westminster's drug-dealing operations.

The infiltration, the prosecutors said, came with the help of informants, undercover officers from Carroll and surrounding counties, videotaped surveillance and drug purchases by police.

According to the prosecutors and indictments, the seven people -- six from Westminster and one from Baltimore -- were accused of selling and using drugs over the six-month period.

The drug activity took place at an apartment on East Main Street, on Pennsylvania Avenue and in the Westminster City Playground behind the former city police headquarters.

Brightful was scheduled for a jury trial yesterday, but instead entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors.

Brightful pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and to distribution of cocaine. The crimes were committed in September 1993 and January this year.

His plea triggered the state's so-called three-time-loser law, because Brightful had been convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in 1987 and of possession of marijuana and hashish in April 1980. He was given a suspended two-year sentence and three years of supervised probation on the former conviction, and 60 days in the Carroll County jail and a $500 fine in the latter.

When Brightful is released, he is to serve five years of supervised probation.

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