Rexburg man sentenced in ‘appalling and nightmarish’ drug case
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REXBURG — A Rexburg man who dealt drugs near an elementary school, and used drugs in the same home as a baby, learned his fate Monday morning in a Madison County courtroom.
Mark Lee Jones, 47, had been charged with eight counts of delivery and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, along with possession of drug paraphernalia. The charges were enhanced as drug deals were done within 1,000 feet of an elementary school.
District Judge Gregory Moeller sentenced Jones on three of the delivery and possession charges and the possession of drug paraphernalia charge. The remaining charges, as well as enhancements on all of the counts, were dismissed by the Madison County prosecutor after Jones entered a plea agreement.
On the three meth delivery counts, Moeller sentenced Jones to a 20-year total sentence with four years fixed and 16 years indeterminate.
On the possession of meth charge, Jones was given a seven-year sentence with two years fixed and five years indeterminate. All four of the sentences will run concurrently.
The defendant’s wife cried out audibly during the sentencing hearing when she heard Moeller hand down the sentence.
Investigators say Jones was one of the primary dealers in a Rexburg drug operation, which Moeller said was one of the worst drug cases he had ever seen.
“When you were arrested, it was absolutely appalling and nightmarish to the court,” Moeller said. “When the police executed their warrant to your home, they found you living in absolute squalor in a house filled with the scent of animal urine, and animal feces laying about the floor. They found drug paraphernalia throughout the home (and) knives and machetes.”
Moeller noted that he was “gravely concerned that there was a baby in the home,” (the defendant’s grandchild). The child’s crib was found with garbage and condoms sitting next to it.
Jones’ attorney, Daniel D. Taylor, argued his client was someone with severe drug and alcohol addictions who did not have tools to deal with his issues.
Taylor said the last time Jones had a felony was in 2000. He said because his felony charges were reduced after a successful probationary period, the court should now consider placing Jones on a rider program for treatment.
“I think what it is specifically is a drug addiction, and I think that we don’t lose anything by sending him on a rider,” Taylor said.
Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood argued that the punishment of a rider did not match the severity of the crime. Wood recommended Jones be sentenced to 13 years in prison with a fixed period of six years and an indeterminate period of seven years.
“Meth is an evil drug. It tears the fabric of society and destroys families, creates mental health issues and it turns users to other crimes and shortens users lives,” Wood said. “He sold it willfully and purposefully. Nobody made him do it. What makes this worse (is) that as an addict himself, he knew what meth did to him. He knew what meth did to people around him and he sold it anyway.”
Before Moeller handed down his sentence, Jones addressed the court.
“I stand before you as a man who’s lost his way,” Jones said. “I have let everyone and everything in my life down -like my community, friends, and family – but most of all myself. All because of an addiction.”
Jones said through tears that every time he got high, he would think, “‘Why am I doing this? Why am I hurting my family?’… I could not give myself an explanation of why because the urge to get high was so overwhelming.”
Moeller said this isn’t the first time Jones had been convicted of a felony drug charge and reference his 1990 charge of intent to deliver drugs.
“I think we are greatly underestimating the scope and dimension of this case because it’s more than just a personal tragedy for you,” Moeller said. “It’s a personal tragedy for many other people. It’s a personal tragedy for the community as well that this was happening here.”
Moeller’s sentence exceeded the recommendations of the prosecutor and defense attorney.
“We have to send a message that this kind of behavior is not welcome in our community,” Moeller said.
Wood said the prosecutor’s office is happy with the result and gave credit to police for arresting Jones.
“Really excellent work on the part of the Rexburg Police Department that finally got him,” Wood said.