Effingham Daily News
The former Altamont man convicted this summer of illegally selling synthetic cannabinoids out of his shop in the Village Square Mall avoided prison time after a long sentencing hearing that lasted well into Tuesday evening.
Instead, Judge Michael Kiley sentenced Jimmie J. Poole, 39, to three years periodic imprisonment in Effingham County Jail, 30 months probation, a $10,000 fine and various court costs. Poole had been convicted in August of two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Because of Poole’s prior criminal history — which includes a stint in the Illinois Department of Corrections — the defendant could have received up to 30 years in prison with extended term provisions.
Effingham County State’s Attorney Ed Deters had asked that Poole be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison. Kiley admitted during Tuesday’s hearing that Poole’s priors qualified him for such a sentence.
“The fact of the matter is that the sentence the state has recommended might be consistent with your record,” Kiley said. “But I’m troubled the people who make this stuff aren’t before me.”
Poole was charged after the Effingham County Board banned last September the chemicals that go into fake pot — and after he continued to sell items such as K2, K4 or Spice even though Effingham police had raided his Gemini Coin Shop the day after the ordinance was passed.
The Poole case is perhaps the first time in Illinois that someone has been prosecuted for selling fake pot. The chemicals that give the “herbal incense” its kick were banned statewide, effective Jan. 1.
Kiley ordered Poole to report to jail for 19 days in January and added that he shall also serve one weekend a month through 2013, and one weekend every other month through 2015.
“The fines, costs, fees and time in jail will be a sufficient reminder,” Kiley said.
Defense Attorney David Benney said after the hearing that he doesn’t expect many more prosecutions relating to fake pot.
“I am glad to see the synthetic drug fad is over with,” Benney said. “I think the judge was correct and I’m glad he decided the way he did.”
Poole’s fiancee’ Heather Johnson, who testified Tuesday that her breast cancer may be spreading, was happy that her man won’t be going to prison.
“I think this was the right decision,” Johnson said. “But I thank God he (Kiley) went this direction.”
Poole was unavailable for comment after the hearing because he was arrested on a warrant unrelated to the fake pot case.
Deters had little to say after the hearing.
“The judge made his decision and there’s really nothing more to say,” the prosecutor said.
In his argument for probation, Benney told the judge that Poole was the primary breadwinner for his household, which includes Johnson and several children.
“He’s a vital member of that household,” Benney said. “He is the primary provider for that household.
“None of the people who know Jimmie Poole best have anything bad to say about him.”
Benney said Poole’s criminal history isn’t as relevant to Kiley’s decision as the state would like it to be.
“The state relies on the defendant’s criminal history,” he said. “But the offenses he was convicted for in the 90s aren’t likely to be repeated.
“He is a different person with a different household.”
Both Benney and Poole acknowledged the latter’s responsibility in the case.
“Jimmie Poole bears some responsibility for selling a product that was banned,” Benney said. “But it’s more an illness than a crime.”
Benney noted that Poole suffered from a number of psychiatric conditions, including bipolar and anxiety disorders.
In a prepared statement before sentence was imposed, Poole apologized for his involvement in the fake pot trade.
“I’m very sorry for being involved in the herbal incense market,” he said. “I was only trying to support my fiancee’ and children by pursuing the American dream.
“I will never let incense, drugs or alcohol keep me from spending time with my family.”
Deters said in his argument that Poole was solely motivated by the thousands of dollars a month he was clearing in fake pot sales.
“He did this because he was making money,” Deters said. “He was a drug dealer.”
Deters admitted a prison sentence would be a hardship on Johnson and other household members.
“But I would note that prisons are full of mothers and fathers,” he said. “The people do not believe the hardship would be excessive in light of the harm he caused others.”
Two area teens testified Tuesday about their unpleasant experiences with fake pot, experiences that included trips to the hospital.
“We ask the court to find that probation would deprecate the seriousness of the offense,” Deters said. “By sentencing Mr. Poole to a long prison sentence, we are sending a message this is unacceptable.”