A Granbury man was sentenced on Nov. 20 to the maximum of 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for selling methadone to an undercover officer – with his punishment enhanced because of previous felony convictions, according to Hood County District Attorney Rob Christian.
James Michael Checksfield, 37, pleaded guilty to the first-degree felony and took the option of having a jury assess his punishment. The jury’s minimum option could have been 15 years instead of 5 years because of the penalty enhancement, Christian said.
The undercover officer took delivery of 26 tablets containing methadone on April 9, Christian said. Checksfield was on parole at the time of the offense, Christian noted.
“Each of the tablets sold to the undercover officer by Checksfield contained 10 milligrams of methadone, which means that the total amount of pure methadone sold was 260 milligrams,” Christian said.
Matt Mills, the attorney representing Checksfield, told the Hood County News that he was troubled by the fact that the weight of the prescription tablets was increased by what are described as “adulterants and diluents” in Texas law.
“It doesn’t make sense that the punishment for $140 worth of methamphetamine is lower than the punishment for $140 worth of a prescription drug,” Mills said.
Hood County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry asked the jury to sentence Checksfield to at least 60 years in prison.
Checksfield has been in custody since May 9. He will become eligible for parole when his time served plus any good time credit equals 15 years, Christian said.
“It’s another case of Hood County law enforcement investigating and arresting people that are selling drugs,” Christian said. “I commend them for their work. The juries set the bar for what the appropriate punishment is for committing the offense in Hood County.”
A hidden recording device provided investigators with a video of the methadone delivery, Christian said. The jury saw that evidence and heard telephone conversations between Checksfield and the officer bargaining over the cost of the tablets, Christian added.
The undercover officer testified that one of the reasons methadone is so dangerous is that the small tablets can be easily accessed by children and unknowing adults and the results can be deadly, according to the D.A.
“According to the University of Utah, as little as 10 milligrams (of methadone) has been fatal in children and as little as 30 to 50 milligrams may be fatal in adults with no tolerance to opiates,” Christian said.
“Checksfield had previously been convicted in Hood County in December 2009 for a third-degree felony offense of possession of a firearm by a felon, a case in which he pointed a firearm at a Hood County deputy,” Christian said.
“Checksfield was released on parole in August of 2010 and was scheduled to stay on parole until April of 2016.”
Christian also noted that in 2007 Checksfield was convicted of grand theft in Florida.
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