(TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - A Smith County jury, on Monday, convicted and sentenced a 46-year-old Tyler man to life in prison on charges of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine in a drug-free zone.
Richard Earl Hartsfield had been free on parole in 2008 for a murder he committed in 1988 in Smith County, which is why the jury handed him a life sentence, prosecutor Kenneth Biggs said. Hartsfield, who had faced a 20-year to life sentence on the charges of possession with intent to deliver, will go back to prison to serve the remaining 18 years left on his murder parole violation, Biggs said.
After the remainder of the murder sentence has been served, Hartsfield will then begin to serve his life sentence on the possession charges, Biggs said.
The Hartsfield trial started on Oct. 15, and with a few unexpected delays the case ran over into this week, Biggs said. The trial took place in the Smith County 241st District Court, with Judge Jack Skeen Jr. presiding. The defense attorney who represented Hartsfield was Lana Johnson.
Tyler police arrested Hartsfield in April after executing a search warrant that was the result of a several month- long undercover investigation, Biggs said. The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict for Possession with Intent to Deliver crack cocaine in a Drug Free Zone.
"They also found that the defendant used a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense and the Tyler police seized 5 hand guns total," Biggs said.
Two of the handguns seized were found to be stolen-- one from a Van Zandt County Deputy Constable, and the other from a Tyler resident who had a suppressor custom fitted to the weapon, Biggs said. The suppressor was also recovered. Two rifles were seized including an AK-47 assault rifle. The defendant is on parole for a Murder conviction and after the sentencing phase of the trial the jury deliberated for about 40 minutes before sentencing the defendant to life in prison.
"The drug free zone statutes require this sentence run consecutive to any other criminal statute, so the life sentence handed down by the jury will stack on his time received for the parole violation. The defendant is currently on parole until 2031 for the Murder conviction. Once his time for this case begins to run, he will be eligible for parole in 30 years.