The former sheriff of Wells County remains charged with two felonies after a judge rejected a plea deal that would have thrown out those charges.
Johnny Lawson is accused of Conspiracy to Deliver Meth and Bribery – both felonies – along with three misdemeanors stemming from his time as sheriff.
Today in Fessenden, Lawson was scheduled to enter a guilty plea to one misdemeanor in exchange for the dropping of all other charges.
The deal would have meant no jail time for the former sheriff, other than the five days he was incarcerated when he was arrested this spring.
The two-hour hearing was filled with drama – including right away when the judge said he understood the deal had been cancelled.
But after consulting with his attorney, Lawson decided to plead guilty to the charge of ingesting meth, with the understanding he would testify in another drug case involving Alexander Lail.
Judge Daniel Narum was skeptical about the terms of the deal.
(Daniel Narum, District Court Judge) “That’s a significant price for the state to pay for cooperation even – and I understand that I’m assigned to the Lail cases that you referenced.”
(Jeremy Ensrud, Special Assistant State’s Attorney) “It would be an uphill battle at trial to ontain a conviction on all five counts and that certainly went into the attorney general’s decision to, as you say, pay a heavy price – dismiss those charges.”
(Jim Olson/KX News)
Because the deal was proposed ahead of a legal deadline, the judge was left with only two choices – accept the plea deal is it was proposed, or reject is. Judge Narum chose the latter, saying the charges to be dropped were very serious.
(Daniel Narum, District Court Judge) “I think that the plea agreement is inappropriate and doesn’t serve justice and at this point I’m going to reject the plea agreement.”
That means all five charges – two felonies and three misdemeanors – remain on the books against Lawson.
The court will soon be scheduling the next hearings in the case.