Raymond Speight Jr., 23, of Salem was indicted for possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute stemming from his arrest in March. Police say Speight Jr. had 5 1/2 lbs. of marijuana shipped to a post office box listed to a fictional clothing company. (COURTESY)
BRENTWOOD - A Salem man arrested for receiving 5½ pounds of marijuana in the mail was sent to state prison on Monday after a judge rejected an argument that his offense was worthy of a largely time-served jail sentence.
Raymond Speight Jr., 23, received a 1½- to 4-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in Rockingham County Superior Court to possession of a controlled drug with attempt to distribute.
Prosecutors argued that despite recent legalization efforts to decriminalize marijuana around the nation, Speight's offense should still warrant prison time given the amount of marijuana seized from his home.
"This isn't just marijuana, this is 5½ pounds of marijuana," Assistant County Attorney Ben LeDuc said. "This isn't somebody with a joint or somebody with any small amount."
Salem police were alerted by U.S. Postal Inspector Michael McCarran earlier this year that Speight had taken delivery of roughly 16 suspicious packages between February and March, each weighing 2 to 5 pounds.
The packages drew the attention of McCarran because they had tell-tale signs of possibly containing drugs, according to LeDuc. They were mailed from a fictitious business in Scottsdale, Ariz., the addresses were handwritten, and the packages were protected with heavy amounts of tape, he said.
Speight had been picking up the packages - addressed to another fictitious business - from a UPS store in Methuen, Mass., LeDuc said.
Police seized only a single package from Speight on March 29, but investigators found a scale, $16,056 in cash and other packages along with the drugs. Federal prosecutors seized the cash earlier this year as part of a separate court action.
Defense lawyer Donald Blaszka argued that the state lacked any evidence what the empty packages once contained. Prosecutors considered it circumstantial evidence that Speight was dealing marijuana.
"There's no evidence. There's no intelligence ... that points to Mr. Speight as some big-time drug dealer or big-time marijuana dealer," Blaszka said.
He argued for Speight, who has been jailed since his arrest in March, to serve a 12-month jail sentence and receive two years probation.
Judge N. William Delker disagreed with that assessment.
"What you have done in this case is nothing short of being a drug dealer," Delker said.
He said all the evidence in the case left no mystery to what he was doing.
"You're not dealing a little on side to fuel a drug habit," Delker said. "You are the problem."