SANFORD J. SCHMIDT The Telegraph
January 7, 2014
EDWARDSVILLE — A judge Tuesday sentenced a former major downtown Alton drug dealer to four years probation, but the judge said he did not buy the defendant’s claim that he had the best of intentions.
Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli sentenced Kirk P. Myers, 65, of the 4300 block of Wanda Road, Edwardsville, after his guilty plea to one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine.
Myers said Tuesday was just trying to be nice to his friends and that he had to sell drugs to compete with other businesses downtown.
Assistant State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe argued that Myers had plenty of other ways to raise money besides selling drugs from Harris’ Downtown Tavern.
Myers also claimed he planned to turn the building at 10 E. Third St. into a tourist attraction. He said the building was once part of the Underground Railroad that he planned to turn into a “million-dollar tour.” He claimed his troubles started when he proposed an idea of the tourist attraction to city officials, but they responded by harassing him with charges of sales to minors.
He said the city victimized him by harassing him, walling off a tunnel in his basement and placing decorative lamp posts in the way of his proposed project.
Tognarelli said he was not persuaded by Myers’ statement on his own behalf but noted that the state has seized $125,000 from him. Myers’ attorney, William Starnes, also argued that his client is in poor health and had lost his business as a result of the case. He has no prior convictions.
The judge said he found the probation sentence difficult because of the seriousness of the crime.
“It’s against my better judgment. You are a lucky man, sir,” he said. He warned Myers that any violation of his conditions of probation could result in prison.
Myers said he was selling drugs directly to friends and that he was forced to sell drugs to compete with other businesses in downtown Alton.
“I am really caught in a spot about how stupid I have been to really think that I was helping somebody keep from doing something that they couldn’t do,” Myers told the judge.
He said other businesses had people in the doorways to facilitate drug deals, but he did not want to have that at his business.
“I chased all those people away from my place and found myself with no business whatsoever,” he said.
He said his friends would come there, as opposed to other places. “I helped them have what they wanted,” he said, adding that he did not sell drugs often and that he was merely trying to be nice to his friends.
“I was wrong to have ever done anything to help anybody,” he said.
Myers was charged Dec. 20, 2010, with three class X counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church).
The charges claim he sold between one and 15 grams of a controlled substance to a confidential informant on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 of 2010.
He also was accused of possessing between 15 and 100 grams of cocaine on Dec. 17, when police executed a search warrant.
He was jailed in lieu of $250,000 but his bond was later reduced to $75,000, and he posted $7,500 cash. He has been out on bond since he posted the cash, but he forfeited the bond as part of a settlement in a forfeiture case filed by the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office.
In the Dec. 17 raid, police found 22.3 grams of cocaine bundled into numerous small plastic bags in the ceiling of a storage room in the basement. Police found nearly $38,000 in the tavern, which was eventually forfeited.
Myers told police he found the drugs two years previously in a mailbox at the business and “might have” sold some of it.
The State’s Attorney’s Office filed a suit to seize Myers’ half interest in the business. The other half belonged to his wife. The state also claimed the $38,000 in cash. The parties eventually agreed to a settlement of $125,000 in cash. Myers’ liquor license was revoked.
Myers pleaded guilty about two months ago to one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, in exchange for the state’s agreement to drop the three more serious drug charges.
He pleaded open, which means the sentence was left up to the judge after a pre-sentencing investigation and a hearing, which was Tuesday. He could have been sentenced to between three and seven years in prison.
© 2014 The Telegraph
Reporter Sanford J. Schmidt can be reached at 618-463-2558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.