By BRAD KELLAR
A Commerce man, whose conviction and lengthy prison sentence for the possession of methamphetamine were thrown out by the state’s highest criminal appeals court, has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to prison again.
The punishment Scott Lee James received Monday is far less severe than the sentence handed down in 2009, plus he received a credit for time already served.
James entered the guilty plea to one count of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, methamphetamine, in an amount of between four and 200 grams, during a hearing Monday in the 196th District Court.
Under a plea bargain arrangement, James was sentenced to 17 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division. James also received 1,309 days credit (almost 3.6 years) for time he had already served in prison after previously being convicted of the charge.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in an opinion issued in June, ruled James should receive a new trial based on the fact he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his original trial.
James was convicted in May 2009 and the same jury sentenced James to 69 years in prison.
James was arrested near Quinlan by Hunt County Sheriff’s deputies on March 28, 2008.
James was driving a Kia sport utility vehicle early that morning and was observed disregarding a stop sign at the intersection of FM 751 and County Road 3836. James gave consent for the officer to search the vehicle. The check turned up scales and approximately 100 plastic bags used to distribute controlled substances. Another bag containing 13.1 grams of methamphetamine was found inside the deputy’s patrol vehicle. A female passenger who had been riding in the Kia told officers it belonged to James.
Due to prior felony convictions on his record, James was facing a maximum sentence of up to life in prison for his conviction on the charge.
James went on to appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he did not preserve an error on his motion to suppress the evidence in the case and because his trial attorney did not adequately inform James of the risks of declining the Hunt County District Attorney’s final plea offer.