CONYERS - A bench trial for a Newton County man charged with dealing in drugs never got started Friday when the defendant entered a guilty plea to the charge.
Superior Court Judge David Irwin ordered Errol Rodney Ward to serve the first 10 years of a 15-year sentence and pay a mandatory $200,000 fine for trafficking in cocaine.
Ward was charged as a result of an undercover investigation that was part of an operation involving the Whitfield County Drug Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office assisted in the arrest of Ward, 32, in January after an undercover operative met the defendant at a convenience store on Salem Road.
Investigators who searched the Cadillac Escalade driven by Ward discovered a bag containing approximately 6 ounces of suspected cocaine and $1,000 in cash.
As a result, Ward was charged with trafficking in cocaine and a search warrant was executed at his Newton County residence.
Authorities reported finding approximately 38 grams of suspected cocaine, approximately $22,000 in cash and what was described as a growing operation for marijuana.
The judge previously rejected a bond request for Ward and he had been in the Rockdale County jail since his arrest. Ward still faces charges in Newton County.
In an unrelated case, Irwin sentenced Ronnie Anthony Fletcher to serve one year of a 30-year sentence for sale of cocaine.
Because of a criminal history that included three prior convictions in Newton County for drug offenses, a 30-year sentence was required, but any portion of it could be probated.
However, Fletcher, 50, must serve the year in jail in its entirety without the opportunity for early release.
The assistant district attorney on the case noted two of the convictions were in the 1980s and the third occurred in 1993.
"You're getting a little consideration here, but if you use drugs or sell drugs while on probation you are looking at a long time in prison," Irwin told Fletcher.
Ric Latarski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.