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State appeals court rules judge imposed ‘excessive’ sentence

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) – A judge who sentenced a man to 20 years in prison for selling 10 prescription pills to a police informant imposed an “inappropriate and excessive” sentence, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

The appeals court ruling Friday orders Howard Superior Court Judge William Menges to resentence John Norris to 12 years, with eight years served in prison and four years suspended.

Norris had pleaded guilty to one felony count of dealing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school and public park for selling the hydrocodone painkillers to the police informant, The Kokomo Tribune reported. Norris had sold the informant 10 hydrocodone tablets for $60 during a buy that was closely monitored by police.

Probation officials recommended a sentence of 12 years with six years suspended on probation for Norris, while prosecutors sought a sentence longer than 12 years because the Kokomo man had an extensive criminal history dating back to 1998.

Menges sentenced the Kokomo man in October to the maximum 20-year sentence, with no time suspended to probation. He cited Norris’s criminal history, the fact he had been on probation for two different convictions at the time he sold the pills and had been unsuccessful on community supervision in the past.

The appeals court said in its ruling that the sentence was excessive given “the small amount of pills that were sold to a confidential informant during a controlled buy.”

“What convinces us that Norris’s sentence is inappropriate and excessive is the relatively innocuous nature of this offense,” its ruling said.