An Arlington man was sentenced to 18 months in prison during a Dodge County District Court hearing on Monday, after he violated the conditions of his probation by committing a new crime.

Joseph Gardner, 29, had been sentenced to intensive supervised probation for a term of 30 months in July of 2017, when he pleaded guilty to a class IV felony of possession of a controlled substance.

But Gardner violated to the terms of that probation in February of 2018, when he was arrested in Sarpy County for again possessing a controlled substance.

In court on Monday, Chief Deputy Attorney for Dodge County Sara Sopinski asked for a sentence of one to two years in prison, noting that Gardner had failed to complete any of the terms of his probation.

Gardner’s attorney, Richard Register, argued that Gardner has “been fighting a lot of issues in his life,” particularly regarding substance abuse and mental health. Gardner submitted a handwritten letter to District Court Judge Geoffrey Hall, and Register read a note from family members of Gardner, who have a history in working for the Open Door Mission.

That note argued that Gardner is eager to take steps to improve his life, and has made a six-point plan focused on addressing the issues that have held him back -- including re establishing familial ties and getting treatment.

Hall, in his sentencing, praised Gardner’s list, noting that the plan, “if you follow it, could lead to successful dealing with the addiction as well as your mental health.”

However, given the charges, Hall still sentenced Gardner to prison, noting that he could not, “in good conscience” give Gardner another chance at probation.

As part of the 18-month sentence, Gardner received credit for 74 days served, and was also given a year of post-release supervision. Hall said that the mandatory services of post-release supervision would allow Gardner to prove that he was serious about his recovery.

In other district court news from Monday:

*Laura Stolley, 42, was sentenced to a term of 30 months of intensive supervised probation on a charge of possession of a controlled substance. The state didn’t object to probation as part of Stolley’s plea agreement, but noted that they hoped it would be a lengthy term, so she could address her substance abuse issues. Hall granted the probation despite being “somewhat concerned about the lack of acceptance of responsibility” noted in a pre-sentence investigation that was available ahead of Monday’s hearing. Stolley pleaded to the charge in October, after having been arrested in June, when law enforcement found traces of methamphetamine during a traffic stop. Stolley was driving with a male passenger who was also arrested, as well as three children.

*Kasey Gillihan, 27, pleaded to possession of a controlled substance as a class IV felony. Dodge County Deputy Attorney Emily Beamis said the state had no objection to probation. Sentencing was set for March 25.

*Brandon Groves, 40, pleaded guilty to a class IV felony of possession of a controlled substance and will be making an application to drug court. There is no other agreement as to sentencing.

*Shawn Vernoy, 33, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence as a third offense. But since his arrest, Vernoy has nearly completed a treatment program. Beamis said that “if the defendant completes his treatment,” then the state wouldn’t object to probation.


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