A Fremont man was sentenced in Dodge County District Court on Tuesday to two to three years in prison for attempted possession of a firearm as a prohibited person.
Brandon M. Neth, 44, had previously pleaded guilty to the class IIA felony as part of an agreement with the Dodge County Attorney’s office that was made in December. Both Dodge County Deputy Attorney Emily Beamis and Neth’s attorney Pamela Hopkins asked District Court Judge Geoffrey Hall to sentence according to a joint recommendation of two to three years.
Neth received credit for 321 days previously served in jail as his case was processed.
However, Hall initially threatened to sentence Neth to a longer prison term because Neth declined to be interviewed by the local probation office for his pre-sentence investigation, which helps inform a judge's sentencing decision. When given a chance to comment, Neth said he chose not to participate because he was pleased with the plea agreement and the prison recommendation and did not believe it was necessary.
“The reason I didn’t complete the pre-sentence investigation is because, with the agreement that we made, I’ve almost completed that amount of time,” Neth said.
Hall, however, pointed out that judges are under no obligation to follow plea agreements, and said that Neth needed to respect the justice system.
“I don’t have to follow that agreement -- I wasn’t impressed by your conduct during this report, and I actually was going to give you more time,” Hall said. “Put that in your back pocket somewhere that you need to treat these people with respect. They’re employees, they have a job, they’re trying to do what’s best. And there’s no cause to not cooperate.”
Hall said he’d been inclined to sentence Neth to a term of three to five years, but ultimately he chose to follow the agreement.
“It’s an offense that’s more stupid than anything,” Hall said. “It’s about time to stop doing stupid crimes and move on and do something different with your life.”
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Neth was arrested in April 2018 as investigators with the III Corps Drug Task Force were looking into a death and possible overdose of a controlled substance, according to a police affidavit. They made contact with Neth, who indicated he’d be willing to help but would not speak with police because had an outstanding warrant.
Police found an address for Neth and arrived at his residence and arrested him after confirming the warrant. After Neth allowed officers into his residence, officers observed a handgun in an open drawer. Due to Neth’s criminal history, which included a prior felony conviction, he is prohibited from owning a firearm.
The affidavit notes that officers asked Neth if they could search his residence for drugs and other firearms, but Neth “was unable to give a definite yes or no answer.”
He was then transported to jail, and the affidavit notes that “two handguns were seized.”
Neth was initially charged with two class ID felonies of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, each punishable by three to 50 years in prison. He also had a habitual criminal designation, which can extend sentences for repeated offenders. In December, he ultimately pleaded to the sole charge of attempted possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, a class II felony, punishable by one to 50 years in prison.
In other district court news from Tuesday:
• A jury trial was set for Larry E. Munson, 24, for March 27 and 28. Munson has pleaded not guilty to possessing around 95 grams of marijuana with intent to sell it, which amounts to a class IIA felony, punishable by zero to 20 years in prison. Munson’s attorney, Hopkins, also asked Hall to release Munson on a personal recognizance bond, noting that he was in need of mental health treatment.
She added that he would be able to live with family who was present in the courtroom, and added that he has been in jail since Sept. 21, 2018. In that time, he’d been trying to get a mental health evaluation but had been unable to find a provider to give one until recently. The final report for that evaluation was still pending, but Hopkins noted that preliminary recommendations called for intensive outpatient treatment. “We’re not talking about ... highly dangerous substances here, this is a marijuana charge,” Hopkins said. “The state is currently debating in our legislature whether or not to legalize it. This is not a high-risk situation.”
Beamis opposed the bond reduction, noting that the bond had already been lowered to $50,000 with a 10 percent option and that the charge still amounted to a class IIA felony. Hall ultimately denied the bond reduction, claiming that he would consider some type of release once the mental health evaluation was completed and there was a plan in place for treatment.