A 50-year-old Devils Lake man escaped a long prison sentence thanks to a change in state statutes.
Barry Johansen, who was facing as much as 46 years in prison, will serve just five years after reaching a plea agreement on four felony charges and one misdemeanor charge surrounding drug sales in the past two years in Devils Lake. The agreement and sentence were hammered out Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court after Johansen waived his right to a preliminary hearing and entered guilty pleas on all five charges.
Johansen had accepted a plea agreement that called for five years in prison as part of the mandatory minimum sentence required for persons with a previous drug conviction. His attorney, Scott Thompson, at the last minute argued that statute did not apply to Johansen since the most recent charge, occurred prior to his client being convicted on other charges.
Thompson said he believed a 1999 change in the state statute modified the sequence of events that triggered a mandatory minimum sentence and that Johansen was required to have been previously found guilty of any charges before being given the stiffer sentence and held for a two-year sentence for Johansen.
District Court Judge Lee Christofferson agreed with Thompson regarding the change in statutes, but sided with State Attorney Lonnie Olson, who argued for the five-year sentence.
Johansen's most recent arrest came on Oct. 4 when he sold two grams of methamphetamine to a confidential informant for $410. He was charged with a Class A felony of delivery of a controlled substance in that case. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Johansen was free on bond at the time of the Oct. incident after being arrested for selling marijuana to a CI on two separate occasions in 2011. Both of those charges are Class B felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He was also arrested in May of 2011 after a search of his home revealed a light bulb with believed to have meth residue and other items thought to have traces of marijuana.
In addition to the five-year sentence handed down during Tuesday's court appearance but Johansen, he was also ordered to enter a treatment program during his incarceration and was ordered to pay $180 in restitution as the state sought to recover the money used by the confidential informants to purchase drugs from Johansen.
Olson said that Johansen will be eligible for parole in 15 months.