State Circuit Judge John Brown on Tuesday sentenced Hunter Van Ash to three years in prison for drug crimes following the outline of a plea agreement between Van Ash’s attorney, Dave Siebrasse, and Hughes County State’s Attorney Roxanne Hammond.
Van Ash, 22, was arrested in February in Pierre when the driver of the car he was in was stopped for a traffic violation. The law officer said in his probable cause document, “While speaking with the driver, I noticed the passenger, who I knew to be Hunter from previous law enforcement contacts, attempt to drop something out of the window.”
It turned out to be a glass pipe with meth in it. Van Ash soon admitted as much and was jailed awaiting trial on felony drug charges.
He also had been charged last year with stealing the catalytic converter from an acquaintance’s vehicle by cutting it off the exhaust system with a torch.
Van Ash told Brown he wanted to serve some more time behind bars instead of a longer probation sentence, so that he could get clear of the judicial system and move to Sioux Falls where he can get away from people he’s been hanging with in Pierre and get a job.
His attorney, Siebrasse, told Brown that Van Ash “recognizes he has an addiction problem,” and that “he wants to get treatment. It’s just a matter of what is going to be the most productive way to get treatment.”
Van Ash wants to move away from bad influences, perhaps to Sioux Falls, where “he’s got some cousins on his mother’s side,” or perhaps out of state, to find better jobs, Siebrasse said.
Van Ash’s mother was in the front row of the court room gallery, often wiping tears away.
“Just changing your location doesn’t always change the playmates you’re hanging out with,” Brown told Van Ash.
Hammond recommended a five-year prison sentence with two years suspended. She said he’s got a lengthy juvenile crime record and a history of not doing well on probation.
Brown sentenced him instead to three years, none of it suspended, to more closely align with the terms of the plea agreement.
It means he won’t have any more time hanging over him if he misbehaves, but effectively it’s the same time behind bars. He’s expected to serve about 35 percent of the three years under state guidelines, based on his criminal record, Hammond said.
Brown also ordered him to pay restitution to the owner of the vehicle from which Van Ash stripped the catalytic converter; valued for its precious metals.
Van Ash had characterized that theft as payback for losing some tools to the same man.
Van Ash will get credit for several weeks he’s been in jail.