Edinburgh man avoids prison in sentencing

A German Township man captured with more than $30,000 worth of illegal drugs one year — who then held police at bay by holding a shotgun to his chin the next — has been sentenced in Bartholomew Superior Court 1.

Thomas C. Burton, 56, 4110 W. County Road 500N, received a seven-year sentence on both cases Tuesday, but Judge Jim Worton ordered that Burton serve all remaining time in a community corrections program rather than in prison.

Officers from several police agencies seized more than 25 pounds of packaged marijuana during a May 29, 2014,┬ásearch of Burton’s home, as well as 5 ounces of crack cocaine, methamphetamine and about $21,000 in cash.

Police also confiscated more than 30 firearms, including handguns, rifles and assault rifles. Besides Burton, two other Edinburgh men were arrested in that case.

Admitting under oath that he had dealt marijuana for about two years, Burton denied that he had intended to sell the other drugs. Instead, he testified they belonged to a female acquaintance.

One year later, on May 31, 2015, Burton led police on a vehicle pursuit after deputies attempted to question him about a suspected residential break-in in Taylorsville.

When Burton was finally stopped, he refused to get out of his SUV. As deputies approached, they saw Burton holding a 12-gauge shotgun to his chin.

After an hour of negotiation, Burton was stunned with non-lethal beanbag rounds after he took a step outside of his vehicle, which allowed officers to take him into custody.

Although the judge noted that community standards regarding marijuana have been relaxed, Worton also said the large quantity of drugs seized made the 2014 arrest a serious crime.

While describing the standoff with “dangerous actions that put people in jeopardy,” the judge agreed to a plea agreement that capped the maximum possible sentence at eight years.

Other factors the judge said he considered in the sentence are:

  • Burton’s failing health, which includes complications caused by diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart condition.
  • A criminal record with only two misdemeanor convictions both more than 20 years old.
  • A federal fine in excess of $16,000┬álevied on Burton for drug-money income.

In addition, Worton said a risk assessment indicated Burton was only a moderate risk for committing another crime.

Since he has been in the Bartholomew County Jail for the past 15 months, Worton added the time served to Burton’s sentence.

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