Man gets 15 years for trafficking synthetics

Published 12:19 am Friday, August 10, 2018

Circuit Judge Lex Short sentenced Lajon Pier Pate to 15 years in prison after Lajon Pier Pate pleaded guilty to trafficking in a synthetic controlled substance.

Pate, 26, was first arrested on June 16, 2016.

Star-News archives show that a River Falls Police officer attempted to stop Pate for running the stop sign at the intersection of Hwy. 55 and Hwy. 84. A vehicle pursuit was initiated, and officers ultimately blocked Pate in at County Road 107.

During the stop, officers recovered 2,027 grams of synthetic marijuana and multiple sets of digital scales used to weigh those drugs. According to DTF Commander Mark Odom, “The approximate street value of the drugs is around $20,000.”

According to a press release from the district attorney’s office, a synthetic controlled substance is chemically altered to be similar to, but not exactly the same as, its illegal scheduled controlled substance counterpart. For example, synthetic marijuana, as in Pate’s case, aims to give users the same “high” as marijuana, but the chemical compounds vary significantly across sources, making the drug extremely dangerous. Often, synthetic marijuana is treated with an array of chemicals unknown to buyer or seller, and typically those chemicals are not for human consumption. The typical purpose for altering the chemical makeup of the substance is to avoid violating criminal laws.

Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens, who prosecuted the case, said, “Pate’s imprisonment will put a dent in the distribution network for synthetics in Covington County. Trafficking is a serious offense and we prosecute it as such. Even though this was a first offense, he needed to go to prison. So many people would have been hurt by the drugs he intended to distribute.”

At the time of his arrest, he had no prior convictions; however, he has since pled guilty to multiple drug charges in Butler County as well.

District Attorney Walt Merrell expressed his appreciation to officers from the River Falls Police Department, Gantt Police Department, Covington County Sheriff’s Office, and the 22nd Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force for a job well done. “It seems folks nowadays want everyone to believe that drugs don’t pose any risk to society. These officers know that reality says otherwise, and they continue to work hard every day to make our streets safer.”