Jury finds woman guilty of drug charges

Published 7:30 am Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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A Covington County jury convicted a Coffee County woman of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated a short time before finding Yesha James, 31, guilty of possessing cocaine and the synthetic controlled substance commonly referred to as spice. Circuit Judge Benjamin M. Bowden presided over the case. The State was represented at trial by Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter.

The evidence at trial showed that a Covington County Sheriff’s Deputy was conducting stationary radar on Highway 134 when a vehicle driven by James passed him at a rate of 75 miles per hour. The speed limit on Highway 134 is 55 miles per hour. The deputy initiated a traffic stop, and when he approached the vehicle and spoke with James, he noticed an odor of alcohol coming from her person. James would not tell the deputy how much alcohol she had drunk, but she consented to a search of the vehicle.

The deputy asked the passenger, Darrell Darnell Thomas, who was James’s boyfriend to step out of the vehicle. While conducting a pat down search of Thomas for officer safety, he saw a plastic bag containing spice in the top of Thomas’s boot. The deputy then searched the vehicle and found another plastic bag containing spice in an inner pocket of James’s purse and cocaine in a cigarette pack in the center console of the vehicle. The deputy turned the drug evidence over to the Drug Task Force, and the evidence was analyzed by scientists with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Thomas pleaded guilty to his charges prior to trial.

“Drugs are a plague that not only impair users’ judgment, but also destroy lives. As part of the sentence in this case, we will ask the judge to order Ms. James to undergo substance abuse treatment,” said District Attorney Walt Merrell. He also commended law enforcement and Jeter for their hard work in this case.

Judge Bowden will sentence James in November. At the time she committed the offense, possession of a controlled substance was a Class C felony, which carries a sentencing range of up to 10 years imprisonment.

“Since James was arrested, the Legislature changed the law and made it impossible for someone arrested for these crimes after the new law came into effect to ever be put in jail. That change to the law took away the only real effective manner in which we could compel addicts to go to rehab. We used to offer low-level offenders jail or rehab. They always chose rehab, and everyone was better for it. Now we can’t put them in jail, and they all want a trial. They have nothing to lose, and the system is being overrun because of one terrible piece of ‘feel good/soft on crime’ legislation,” Merrell added.