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Three in Reelsville drug case arraigned in federal court

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Assistant Editor

TERRE HAUTE - Three of the men involved in a June drug bust in southwestern Putnam County appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon.

Earl Minnick
James Wright, Luis Calderon and Earl Minnick were among the eight people arrested in the late June bust in which the Putnam County Sheriff's Department seized nearly four pounds of methamphetamine and approximately a quarter-million dollars.

Appearing in the United States courthouse in Terre Haute, all three now face federal felony charges in the case.

Wright, 46, Reelsville, is charged with conspiracy to possess and deal in methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Calderon, 43, Indianapolis, is charged with conspiracy to possess and deal in methamphetamine and distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Minnick, 50, Knightsville, is charged with conspiracy to possess and deal in methamphetamine.

If convicted, each charge carries a prison term between 10 years and life in federal prison. However, in each case, there are complicating circumstances.

Magistrate Judge Craig McKee informed the accused men of minimum enhancements to these crimes for those previously convicted of drug felonies.

An offender with one previous felony drug conviction faces a minimum of 20 years for each crime. An offender with more than one prior felony drug conviction faces a minimum sentence of life in prison.

With one previous conviction, Wright faces the possibility of a doubled sentence for conviction, meaning he would face a minimum of 40 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to consecutive terms.

James Wright
For Minnick, although he faces only one charge, the news is even more harsh. With several prior drug convictions, he automatically faces the possibility of a life sentence in this case.

While Calderon, also known as Miguel A. LaSalle, has no previous convictions that authorities can find, he is an illegal alien. It is unclear how this complicates the case.

In a corresponding move to the federal hearing, the cases against all three men were dismissed in Putnam Superior Court on Thursday.

Clad in black and white stripes, the three men entered the hearing room escorted by U.S. marshals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Jackson requested the move to unseal the indictment, dated Aug. 20, and all three men were advised of their rights and the charges against them.

All three men requested court-appointed attorneys, and were represented on Thursday by Michael Donahoe of the Federal Community Defenders program. Three separate attorneys from the program will be appointed.

All three men waived formal arraignment, but requested a detainment hearing. With the nature of the charges, it appears none of the men will be released prior to the hearing.

The detainment hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, with a trial date of Monday, Oct. 28. Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson will preside in the case.

Among the other people charged in the original case was Ronda Deal, the owner of the property police raided. It is unclear why Deal does not also face federal charges.

Charged with lesser offenses in the original case were Eric Steven Girton, Brian Steven Doane, Lindsey Deal and Jacquelyn Riser.

The five still await trial in Putnam County courts.

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