UPDATE: 3:39 p.m.
Former Buffalo city council member, Justin Gerard, has entered a plea of guilty to a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, with intent to deliver. Sheridan Media's Chris Foy was at the Campbell County District Courthouse in Gillette Wednesday morning and has the story.
At his arraignment Wednesday morning, Gerard was soft spoken and polite during the proceeding. Before entering his formal guilty plea to the felony drug charge, Gerard's defense attorney, Chris Wages of the Buffalo-based law firm Goddard, Wages & Vogel, shared with the court that his client would be entering a cold plea. Also known as a blind plea, this essentially puts the defendant at the mercy of the court by pleading guilty without explicit sentencing arrangements.
But as both the state, represented by Campbell County and Prosecuting Attorney Jeani Stone, and Wages said in court, they had already come to an agreement.
In exchange for Gerard's plea of guilty to the full charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, the state would not file or pursue the intent to deliver aspect of the charges he faces - only the felony possession aspect. Both the state and Gerard's defense are expected to be filing a formal written plea agreement by Friday.
Then a Buffalo city councilor, Gerard was arrested on April 17 after he was pulled over in Gillette for speeding and for following another car too closely, according to the affidavit of probable cause. But it was not by chance that a K-9 unit was on scene to conduct an open-air sniff of his vehicle. The Department of Criminal Investigation arrested Gerard after authorities found two ounces of marijuana separated into quarter-ounce baggies in his possession.
Gerard told the court Wednesday that he purchased the marijuana for $400 from someone and made contact with a friend from his days as a student at the University of Wyoming. Gerard said at the arraignment that he planned on selling it to his college friend for $800 - who ended up being a confidential informant for law enforcement.
Gerard said at his arraignment he'd known the confidential informant since his college days and trusted him. He said he thought it would be a good way to pocket some extra cash.
Stone said that the informant notified law enforcement that Gerard would be making his way to Gillette with the marijuana - and they were waiting for him. Authorities observed his traffic offenses and moved in for the kill.
The maximum sentence Gerard faces - if convicted - would be no more than 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. If he is convicted, Gerard would be a registered felon and again if convicted, would thereby lose his voting privileges, the right to hold public office and the ability to own a firearm, among other restrictions.
After the arraignment, Stone told Sheridan Media that ultimately, Gerard's fate will be decided by the judge at his sentencing, which should be within the next 45-60 days.