An owner of Time Warp businesses in the Midlands was convicted Friday to 10 years in prison for trafficking marijuana.
Jerome "Jerry" Gale Baker II, 46, pleaded guilty in Lexington County court to a second offense for trafficking marijuana greater than 10 pounds, but less than 100 pounds.
Baker was also part of an unrelated WIS investigation into synthetic marijuana and places where it is apparently sold in the Midlands. WIS found that two Time Warp locations in the Midlands were selling packages with brand names that the S.C. Drug Enforcement Administration told WIS were references to synthetic marijuana.
The state Attorney General's Office said WIS' spice investigation came after their charges on Baker and was not included in his plea deals.
Friday's conviction stems from a charge in Richland County after narcotics officers entered Baker's home with a search warrant, according to state Assistant Attorney General Lawrence Wedekind.
On May 23, 2013, Richland County officers found just over 11 pounds of marijuana at Baker's home after he pointed it out to officers, Wedekind said. Investigators also found smaller amounts of marijuana in the home and pills, but state attorneys decided to not prosecute those charges in exchange for Baker's guilty plea.
Wedekind said Baker pleaded guilty in October to a first offense for trafficking marijuana. He was stopped driving a truck from Texas to South Carolina with 44 pounds of marijuana in the gas tank. There was another female co-defendant in this case that was sentenced to seven years in prison, Wedekind said.
With no prior convictions, the state attorneys gave Baker a chance to cooperate in their investigation before having him sentenced.
"Seven weeks elapsed, and in our opinion, he didn't do a whole lot," Wedekind said.
The state recommended Judge Thomas Russo give Baker a concurrent sentence of five to 10 years for both guilty pleas. Russo chose the maximum sentence after reading a detailed report by one of the investigating agents who was tasked to work with Baker during the last few weeks.
"He didn't do much to cooperate," Wedekind said.
Baker waived his right to have his case presented to the grand jury and to have his case heard in Richland County. Also, any other pending narcotics charges against Baker in Richland and Lexington counties will be dropped as a result of his guilty pleas.
Baker's attorney, Theo Williams, described Friday as one of his "saddest days" in court.
"I've known Jerry for 20-something years, and I've never felt as bad as I do right now," Williams said.
Williams described Baker as a hard worker and father of six children. He also said his client was "100 percent honest" in telling him the facts of his drug charges.
"He is a workaholic and has regular jobs. I don't know why he sold marijuana. He could have made it (financially) without it," Williams said.
Russo said his heart goes out to Baker's family, but concluded that there's more to the story.
"He's pretty connected," Russo said while sentencing Baker. "That's not an indication for someone who sells weed on the side."