A Magnolia man accused of six counts of illegal drugs and firearms crimes is on trial today for the first his three pending legal issues.
Lance Deandrea Cooper, 32, of Magnolia is charged with simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, offenses relating to records and maintaining a drug premises in a drug free zone, possession of methamphetamine or cocaine with the purpose of delivery (2-10 grams), use or possession of paraphernalia to manufacture meth or cocaine, possession of a firearm by a certain person, and theft by receiving of a firearm valued under $2,500. If convicted on all counts by the jury, Cooper could face a minimum of 20 years in prison or a maximum of 112 years or life in the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) and $50,000 in fines.
The defendant also has two other pending criminal cases in the Arkansas legal system: one involving minor felony and misdemeanor drug possession charges from November 2016 and the other an attempted murder and illegal firearm possession case from earlier this year that allegedly occurred while Cooper was out on bail. Since his February arrest on the latter charges, the defendant has been held in the Columbia County Detention Center on $250,000 bond.
During final pre-trial proceedings last Thursday, Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Phillips disclosed publicly the state’s previous plea offer to Cooper of 35 years total prison for all three pending cases. The defendant, against his attorney's on the record statements, confirmed his choice to turn down the deal and instead present his case to a local jury.
The trial is scheduled to last today and tomorrow. Cooper is represented by Public Defender Andrew Best.
The accusations against Cooper in today’s trial stem from a Feb. 9, 2017, drug raid performed by Magnolia and Columbia County authorities at what was alleged to be the defendant’s 1202 Carver Street residence – a fact Cooper refutes, according to his defense filings. During the raid, a stolen gun, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and manufacturing supplies were found inside, according to a probable cause affidavit. In total, six individuals were arrested in the incident.
Due to the home’s proximity to Magnolia’s South Side Park, the address is also considered to lie within a “designated drug-free zone” by the state, adding to the felony counts levied against the defendant. The most serious charge facing Cooper, though, comes from the simultaneous drugs and firearm possession count. Arkansas law classifies the offense as a Class Y Felony and alone could carry a prison term of 10-40 years or life in ADC.
The defense leading up to the trial date has made multiple attempts to suppress certain evidence and information from appearing at the trial, insisting it to be irrelevant. In June, Best requested that no mention be made to the jury of Cooper’s previous, unrelated felony conviction and that certain evidence from the Carver Street home – for which the prosecution was seeking to pinpoint as personal items of the defendant – not be admissible in court.
The Prosecution last week filed a motion stating it intended to use the evidence to display that the “drug premises” at Carver Street was indeed the defendant’s residence and that Cooper himself in a statement admittedly “did use, sell or otherwise deal with cocaine.”
According to court filings, at least five subpoenas have been issued for the trial.
For most drug charge convictions in Arkansas, prisoners typically serve one-sixth of their issued sentence.
Accounting for previous time served in the county jail is also commonly applied in felony prison sentencing.
The defendant is scheduled to appear free of shackles and in civilian clothing at today’s (and tomorrow’s, if necessary) proceeding.
Columbia County juries have long held the reputation as being tough on drug convictions. The last major drug trial locally saw the defendant in November 2016, then 32-year-old Kwasi McKinney of McNeil, receive a prison sentence of 154 years.