Judge Matt Headley gave a Merrillville man what he described as "the best Christmas present you've gotten in years" Thursday in Putnam County Circuit Court.
Rashad Ameen Tucker, 30, was arrested in April and charged with Class C felony trafficking with an inmate and Class D felony possession of marijuana. On Thursday, Headley convicted him of the possession charge -- but dropped it to a Class A misdemeanor.
He served three days in jail before posting 10 percent of a $15,000 bond on April 24.
According to court documents, Tucker went to visit his brother, Kelsie Hall, 26, at the Putnamville Correctional Facility on April 18. Hall is serving a six-year sentence for dealing in cocaine or narcotics, information at the Indiana Department of Corrections Web site said.
"Mr. Tucker was observed en route to the visitation center walking with a noticeable limp," a case narrative said.
Tucker was taken to the prison's Internal Affairs Office, where "he did acknowledge he was in possession of something and did voluntarily retrieve it from his crotch area," the narrative said.
That "something" turned out to be 70.3 grams of marijuana, court documents said.
In court, Tucker explained that he was working two jobs -- one as an emergency medical technician and one as a certified nurse's assistant. He said a felony conviction would definitely get him fired from his jobs, and while a misdemeanor conviction could well yield the same result, "it wouldn't reflect on my license or certificates."
Headley asked Tucker if he didn't think about the possibility that taking drugs into the prison could lead to him losing everything he had worked for.
"I just tried to help (my brother) the wrong way," he said.
"That's an understatement," he said.
Tucker also said he is helping to support his three young children, and his losing his job would create a hardship for them.
"I'm conflicted, Judge," Deputy Prosecutor James Hanner said when asked about the state's position on lessening the charge Tucker would be convicted of. "Here you have a man with a job who's supporting his kids. It just makes you wonder why he'd pull a stupid stunt like this. He needs to be punished, but I don't want for him to lose his job or for those three kids to be on welfare."
Darrell Felling, Tucker's attorney, pointed to his client's "character and attitude" as things Headley should consider when convicting Tucker.
"A misdemeanor is extremely warranted," he said. "Not so much for his sake as for his dependents'."
Headley was obviously struggling with his decision before he rendered it.
"I have a big problem with people taking drugs into the prison system," he said. "But you've got kids, you're not a drug user and you're not stupid. You've got a good job and you've done a lot of good things."
Headley sentenced Tucker to one year with 60 days executed, which means he will serve 30 actual days with credit for three days he has already served. He ordered Tucker to report to the Putnam County Jail within two hours of sentencing to serve the first 12 days of his sentence. Tucker must begin serving the remaining 15 days of his sentence no later than Jan. 15.
He will be on probation for the remainder of his yearlong sentence, and must perform 48 hours of community service before that year is up. He is also forbidden from visiting anyone at the prison while on probation, and was ordered to pay court costs and fines, including $200 to help fund drug and alcohol education programs for children.
"I'm questioning my reasoning," Headley said. "Don't disappoint me."