Chesterton Tribune

Admitted skate park heroin dealer sentenced to six years

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A man who admitted selling heroin to a girl whom he met at the Chesterton skate park has been sentenced to six years in prison.

On Tuesday, Joseph T. Draus, 33, a resident of the 1500 block of Westchester Ave. in Chesterton, was sentenced to 10 years in the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC), four of those years suspended.

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper also sentenced Draus to four years on formal probation following his release from DOC.

Draus, who was originally charged with dealing in a narcotic drug, filed as a Class A felony punishable by a term of 20 to 50 years, later agreed to plead guilty to a Class B felony, punishable by a term of six to 20 years.

Four other charges against him—contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a Class C felony; and maintaining a common nuisance, dealing in marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia, all Class D felonies—were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

In her sentencing order, Harper listed two aggravating factors in sentencing Draus to six years in DOC: a history of criminal activity including six prior unrelated misdemeanor convictions as well as four juvenile adjudications, one of which resulted in his commitment to Boys School; and Harper’s finding that “Imposition of probation would minimize the seriousness of the crime in that (Draus) sold heroin to a 16-year-old girl.”

Harper also listed two mitigating factors: that Draus admitted his guilt; and that, inasmuch as he “has custody of two minor children who live with him,” incarceration would impose a hardship on family.

Draus was given a chance to avoid prison. In June, Harper gave him 60 days to wean himself off heroin, with the understanding that, if he did, he would be eligible for Drug Court, an intensely supervised treatment program requiring frequent drug tests and court and probation appearances.

But Draus subsequently failed drug testing and was deemed not eligible.

The investigation into Draus began on Nov. 1, 2009, when a confidential source (CS) advised agents of the Porter County Drug Task Force (DTF) that a 16-year-old girl of his acquaintance was planning to purchase heroin from her Chesterton supplier and promised to purchase heroin for him as well, DTF said.

A surveillance operation was conducted by DTF, agents observed the girl entering and exiting Draus’ residence, and—after the girl had delivered one small packet of heroin to the CS and an undercover officer—a traffic stop was executed by Chesterton Police in a previously coordinated arrangement.

When interviewed by Lt. Jeff Biggs of DTF, the girl identified her heroin dealer as Draus and indicated that she had never used heroin before being introduced to the drug by Draus, DTF said.

“The juvenile stated that she met Draus at the skate park in Chesterton,” DTF said. “At the park Draus befriended her and began conversations about drugs. He provided his phone number to her and told her to call if she ever wanted to buy heroin.”

“A couple of weeks after she met Draus, the juvenile called him to inquire about purchasing heroin,” DTF said.

“He directed her to his residence, where he sold her heroin,” DTF said. “After she purchased her first amount of heroin, Draus showed her how to smash it up with the bottom of a lighter. He then showed her how to line up the crushed heroin and then snort it with a rolled up bill.”

“Since she has met Draus, she believes that she has been to his house on 10 different occasions to purchase heroin,” DTF said. “On every occasion, the juvenile stated that Draus had her snort heroin in his house off the coffee table in his bedroom.”

Draus was taken into custody on Nov. 2, 2009, and evidence recovered from his bedroom “indicated heroin use” and a “small marijuana grown operation,” DTF said.


Posted 10/13/2010