Drug dealer sentenced to 12 years

A self-confessed drug dealer apprehended after one of the largest drug finds in Columbus last year has received a 12-year sentence in Bartholomew Superior Court 1.

However, Judge James Worton suspended half of that time for 35-year-old Johnny J. Sharpe Jr. The defendant was then ordered to serve two years with the Indiana Department of Correction, followed by the remaining four years in community corrections programs.

When a SWAT team raided Sharpe’s home in the 1200 block of Franklin Street 17 months ago, they confiscated more than 10 pounds of marijuana, multiple sheets of LSD and one pound of psychedelic mushrooms, investigators said.

Also recovered during the May 14, 2014, search was $4,172 in cash, hash oil and more than $5,000 worth of drug paraphernalia, police said.

Immediately after the raid, police estimated the value of the confiscated drugs at $30,000.

While testifying on his own behalf during last week’s sentencing hearing, Sharpe said he was only selling a few ounces of marijuana a week and had no more than 10 customers.

Considering the amount of narcotics seized, Worton said he didn’t find that part of Sharpe’s testimony credible.

Worton said he didn’t believe Sharpe’s claim that friends at a music festival gave Sharpe $30,000 worth of narcotics without having to pay for them up front, Worton said.

Sharpe also told the court he wanted to stay out of prison so he can continue paying $130 a month in child support to help his two daughters, ages 9 and 11.

But after ascertaining that Sharpe was able to come up with $5,000 to bond out of jail, Bartholomew County Deputy Prosecutor Greg Long told the court that, as of last month, the defendant was $13,270 behind in his support payments.

During the hearing, the judge agreed that all the money confiscated last year be applied toward those back support payments. Efforts are also underway to see if a portion of the bond money can also be applied toward child support, Worton said.

While court records contain a sworn statement from another Columbus resident who told investigators he sold narcotics for Sharpe, the defendant denied on the witness stand that he recruited others to sell drugs for him.

Although Worton said that claim also lacks credibility, the judge said he did believe a pre-sentence report that indicates Sharpe is likely to respond well to a short-term stay in prison.

Sharpe was originally charged with two counts of dealing in a controlled substance, dealing in marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance.

But as part of a plea agreement reached in August, Sharpe plead guilty to only one count of dealing in a Schedule 1 controlled substance as a Class B felony.

In exchange, all other charges were dropped, according to court records.

His home was placed under undercover surveillance after investigators were tipped off about possible illegal drug activity through a neighborhood watch program, a police spokesman said after last year’s arrest.

A watch group member became suspicious after witnessing vehicles and people coming and going from Sharpe’s home, the spokesman said.

After using distraction techniques, undercover officers saw both paraphernalia and marijuana in plain view as they entered the house during the late-afternoon raid, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Indiana State Police narcotics detectives assisted in both the investigation and the drug raid.

Sharpe’s criminal record shows one previous felony conviction. He was arrested in November 2009 on charges of driving while in possession of a controlled substance, as well as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Four months after his first arrest, Sharpe plead guilty to the intoxicated-driving charge and received a suspended one-year sentence by Bartholomew Superior Court 2 Judge Katherine Coriden.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.