Drug pusher could get life sentence

OKEECHOBEE — An Okeechobee man who has twice been sentenced to prison could now possibly face a life sentence.

Chad Johnathan Garner

Chad Johnathan Garner

Chad Johnathan Garner, 28, was found guilty Thursday, July 21, on two felony drug charges and will now be sentenced Aug. 25 at 1:15 p.m., said assistant state attorney Terry Tribble.

Because of Garner’s criminal history, the prosecutor said he will be seeking enhanced penalties that could put the man in prison for the rest of his life.

Mr. Tribble said he will be seeking a habitual offender enhancement.

“His history is pretty bad. It’s such as he qualifies for those (enhanced penalties),” said Mr. Tribble. “With no enhancement, he could get up to 30 years on each count.”

The prosecutor will present his arguments for the enhancements at the August sentencing and it will then be up to Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn to either grant or deny the habitual offender status.

A six-member jury found Garner guilty last week of sale/delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine) within 1,000 feet of a park and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a park.

Even with this conviction, Garner still has two cases pending in which he is charged with the felonies of attempted sale of a controlled substance (oxycodone), possession with intent to sell/deliver a controlled substance (oxycodone) and resisting a law enforcement officer with violence. He’s also charged with the misdemeanors of battery and criminal mischief $200 or less.

His arrest on those cases occurred in January and February of this year.

Records from the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) show Garner’s first prison stint came in 2008 when he was convicted of robbery and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine). On April 30, 2008, he was sentenced to a term of four years. However, he was released Feb. 7, 2011.

Then, on March 4, 2011, Garner was again arrested. This time he was charged with the felonies of sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana over 20 grams. He was sentenced July 14, 2011, to two years in prison.

DOC records show he began that prison sentence July 27, 2011, and was released March 25, 2013.

Mr. Tribble said he has filed notice with the court to seek the enhanced penalties on Garner’s latest conviction.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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