A Logansport man landed 12 years in prison Thursday for selling cocaine.

At a hearing on Thursday, Cass Circuit Court Judge Leo Burns sentenced 53-year-old Wiley Bell on a single class B felony count of dealing cocaine.

Before handing down his decision, Burns listened to arguments from both the defense and prosecution. Each side agreed that Bell had bettered himself through drug and anger management classes while in jail the past 541 days. However, they differed on whether he should spend more time behind bars.

Deputy prosecutor James Ackermann asked for the 20-year maximum. Public defender Robert Murray, substituting for James Knight, argued that in-home detention would be sufficient.

During a plea hearing in August, Bell admitted under oath that he sold cocaine to a confidential informant in May 2006. His arrest resulted from an investigation by the Cass County Drug Task Force.

Ackermann said Bell had brought “poison” into the community. He also talked about Bell’s criminal history, which began in 1974. Bell has multiple convictions for theft, driving while suspended, operating while intoxicated, false informing and one other cocaine dealing charge. He also owes nearly $18,000 in child support.

Murray pointed out that Bell admitted to his crime and accepted responsibility for breaking the law. Several people, including Karen Waldron of the Cass County Mental Health Association and Pastor Edward Locke, testified on Bell’s behalf.

Each described Bell as a changed man, capable of becoming a law-abiding citizen.

“I think the man has made serious change,” Locke said. “It would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to put him in prison.”

Ackermann disagreed on that point but did agree that incarceration had done Bell a lot of good. He said continued incarceration would further Bell’s progress in strengthening his religious faith and giving him the tools to succeed once out of prison.

Murray said a long sentence would be counterproductive. On in-home detention, he said, Bell would have the support of the family that needed him to help care for his ailing mother.

Burns went with the 12-year recommendation made by the probation department. Bell indicated he intended to appeal the sentence.

With good-time behavior and time served, Bell could be out of prison in slightly more than four years.

Kevin Lilly can be reached at (574) 732-5117, or via e-mail at kevin.lilly@pharostribune.com

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