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2018 Marion drug bust nets felony conviction, nine arrests

by Tim Tedeschi - ttedeschi@chronicle-tribune.com

A Marion man arrested in a Joint Effort Against Narcotics (JEAN) Team Drug Task Force investigation from June 2018 was sentenced to more than three years probation Friday, according to court records. 

Nealis pleaded guilty to one count of possession of methamphetamine, one count of unlawful possession or use of a legend drug and one count of maintaining a common nuisance – controlled substances, all Level 6 felonies, according to the plea agreement. He also reportedly pleaded guilty to one count of dealing in a look-alike substance, a Level 5 felony.

The plea agreement also dismissed one count of dealing in a Schedule III controlled substance with weight at least 28 grams, a Level 2 felony, and one count of possession of paraphernalia, a Class C misdemeanor.

The JEAN investigation netted eight other arrests after officers found meth and other illegal drugs on the 3000 block of South Race Street, where Nealis reportedly lived.

Nealis is the third of the nine individuals charged in the raid to be sentenced, with Caleb Rigney, 21, of Marion sentenced to 758 days of probation for the Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine on Sept. 25, 2018.

Sarah LeBlanc, 36, of Marion was sentenced to concurrent sentences of six years in jail for dealing in methamphetamine/delivery of methamphetamine, a Level 2 felony, and 2.5 years for maintaining a common nuisance – controlled substance, a Level 6 felony, on Aug. 9, 2018.

Orval Hueston, Jr., Terry Russell, Jr., Chelsea Eccles, Bobbi Bilby and Zachary Lawson are in various stages of the trial process, according to court documents.

Terms of Nealis’s plea agreement include evaluation and participation in the Re-entry Court program and the completion of an alcohol and drug assessment.

Nealis’s trial was set to begin July 1 before he entered into a plea agreement of lesser charges in Grant County Circuit Court Judge Mark E. Spitzer’s chambers on June 28, according to court records.

Judge Spitzer sentenced Nealis to two years in jail suspended to probation with credit for time served for the three Level 6 felonies and four years suspended to probation for the Level 5 felony, to be served concurrently for a total of 1,118 days of probation.

Nealis requested and was granted a transfer of probation to his home county of Scott County, and Judge Spitzer additionally sentenced him to pay a $200 drug abuse, prosecution, interdiction and correction fee and a $250 public defender fee.

The JEAN team had the right to seek reimbursement from Nealis for the investigation costs but elected not to do so.