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Brownsville Man Takes Plea Deal In Marijuana Trafficking Case, Still Faces Child Pornography Charges
Darren Doyle, story:
A trial that was scheduled to begin yesterday, July 12, 2017 stopped before it started when the defendant, Howard Baird, (56) of Brownsville agreed to a plea bargain from the Commonwealth Attorney's office just before the trial began.
Baird was arrested on May 18, 2015 at his residence after officers uncovered an elaborate marijuana cultivating and trafficking operation on his property.
In the arrest, the Edmonson County's Sheriff's Office seized over $6300 and 14 acres belonging to Baird, while destroying marijuana plants, buds, and numerous bottles of schedule I and II narcotics. If found guilty on all charges, Baird was facing up to 20 years in prison with forfeiture of his cash and acreage.
While searching for further trafficking evidence on two seized computers, law enforcement officers reportedly discovered thousands of images of alleged child porn, some of which they said were digitally altered to depict Baird in the images along with the minors. The child pornography case is now a federal case and is still pending, completely separate from yesterday's plea agreement.
Commonwealth Attorney Blake Chambers said that Baird had been offered the same plea agreement since Chambers took office in May of this year, which was three years in prison by pleading guilty to Cultivating in marijuana - more than 5 plants and Trafficking in marijuana greater than 8oz, less than 5lbs. In the former plea, Baird's seized 14 acres would have been returned to him.
Yesterday, as a normal practice, the prosecution offered Baird one final plea, which was three years in prison by pleading guilty to the same charges, but he would forfeit the acreage and cash to the sheriff's office. There was one stipulation added where Baird can still retain his property if he can pay $10,000 to the sheriff's office before sentencing which is scheduled for mid-August. Baird agreed to the plea.
"The Edmonson County Sheriff's Office did an excellent job in this case, by not only a very thorough investigation, but also by documenting the evidence," said Commonwealth Attorney Blake Chambers. "We were confident that we had a very strong case going into the trial. Their investigation also uncovered more crimes in a separate case, which is still ongoing."
Sheriff Shane Doyle said that while his office was in charge of the investigation, it was a multi-agency cooperative effort with help from the Brownsville Police Department.
"We're proud to work together with all local agencies to achieve a common goal," he said. "If the sheriff's office keeps the property, we'll use it for a new impound lot and a firing range that all local agencies will be invited to use for training and qualification purposes. If we're able to use the drug money from this case, we plan on purchasing needed equipment that we can't afford in our budget. This will include vehicle equipment as well as training and surveillance equipment."
Chambers said the Commonwealth is strongly recommending the three year sentence with no probation to the judge when Baird is sentenced in August. Baird remains in jail on a $250,000 bond from the child pornography charges, according to jail records.