A Madison Circuit judge sentenced a former EKU professor Thursday to the recommended one-year prison sentence after a jury convicted him in September of trafficking marijuana.
Larry Belknap, 63, was arrested and charged Jan. 5 when Kentucky State Police troopers searched his Phelps Road home, according to a KSP news release. The troopers, who were members of the Cannabis Suppression Unit, reported discovering 8.6 pounds of marijuana.
Belknap’s attorney, Carl Gibson, on Thursday asked Judge William G. Clouse to sentence his client to probation instead of jail time.
Gibson noted that Belknap only had a history of traffic tickets and one criminal case that was dismissed. He also pointed out that Belknap had been out on bond since January, and if he were drug-tested right then he would be negative for drugs and alcohol.
Belknap simply was caught with a substance that “the legislature says you can’t have right now,” Gibson said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith opposed the motion, stating that a sentence of probation would unduly depreciate the nature of the crime.
Clouse said he found the case “troubling,” and nothing he had heard Gibson say in court at Thursday’s hearing was any different than the jury heard during September’s trial. However, the jury did not suggest probation as punishment and recommended one year in prison.
Belknap was convicted of a Class D felony, which carries a sentencing range of one to five years.
Clouse said the court must listen to what a jury panel says.
“It is my belief … the best thing to do at this time would be to deny your motion for probation and sentence you to one year,” Clouse said.
Gibson said he would be filing a shock probation motion in the case, which is a type of early release after a person spends at least 30 days in jail on a nonviolent felony conviction.
Clouse told Belknap that he wished him well, and several people had said nice things about him.
“There’s great sympathy for you in this community,” Clouse said.
During his trial, Belknap testified in his defense and said he had shared marijuana with others under varying circumstances, but he had grown the marijuana for personal use.
However, two KSP troopers, a KSP forensic lab technical and one DEA agent testified that in addition to the marijuana, digital scales, 28 numbered small plastic bags and 45 empty numbered plastic bags also were found in Belknap’s home.
Belknap was a tenured professor at EKU when he was charged, and he resigned shortly afterward. He taught courses in outdoor recreation, park management and nature tourism in the Department of Recreation and Park Administration, according to the university’s website.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.
CORRECTION (published in Nov. 17, 2012 print edition): A Nov. 5 front-page article titled “Judge sentences former EKU professor to one year in prison” contained incorrect information about Larry Belknap, who has been convicted of trafficking marijuana. His attorney, Carl Gibson, said if Belknap was drug-tested at the sentencing, he would not test positive for drugs or alcohol. Belknap was not under a mandatory drug-testing order while out on bond, but he was required not to consume alcohol or illegal substances during that time period.