'Harsh' sentence

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Robert Carlyle Clanton was convicted on 10 drug charges after a trial in August 2015 he was sentenced to 23 years and six months in prison. Clanton was 36 years old at the time. A jury had found him guilty on charges involving the sale of methamphetamine.

He was back in court April 17 hoping for some relief. He did not get it. Judge Forest Durard denied Clanton's petition for "post conviction relief."

'Harsh' sentence

Clanton did not deny that he was guilty; he claimed that the punishment was too severe.

"I never denied I was out there doing things I shouldn't," he said in court Monday. "I'm not a career criminal. I'm a family man" ... who "got caught up with the wrong people."

"I'm trying to better myself and get home," Clanton said.

In an earlier appeal, Clanton had claimed that he had been addicted to methamphetamine for two years prior to his arrest and began selling drugs following his mother's suicide and that his "usage had increased when he had marital troubles and his young cousin committed suicide."

Clanton said that while using methamphetamine he would "often go 20 or thirty days without sleeping and that his memory of that time would blur together."

Initial sale

According to court documents, Clanton had initially been caught selling methamphetamine on July 30, 2014 by agents with the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force. At that time he was released on an agreement that he would help implicate other drug suppliers. At the time, Clanton told Task Force agents that his "main source of income" was selling drugs. Clanton, agents said, never cooperated as he had agreed to.

At this week's hearing, Clanton claimed that his former attorney had not provided him with an adequate defense and that the testimony of the primary witness against him, a confidential informant, could have been better challenged which might have changed the jury's decision in the case.

That attorney said in court there was little charge of a better outcome because the evidence against Clanton was "overwhelming."

Clanton testified that the informant traded methamphetamine he sold him for morphine. "Every time I seen this guy he had a needle hangin' out of his arm," Clanton said.

Informant location

A felony charge -- dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school -- occurred only because the informant suggested the location, Clanton's current attorney Shane Uselton said. That drug transaction occurred at a mobile home park less than 300 feet from Learning Way Elementary School.

According to court documents, Clanton had a digital scale with him to weigh drugs and tossed several bags containing methamphetamine out of the car when law enforcement officers approached.

At the hearing this week, Clanton's account of what occurred in the trailer park incident differed. He claimed that his involvement with the drug transaction at the mobile home park was merely to give Serrett a ride home and check out a firearm that was allegedly for sale there.

Second challenge

This was Clanton's second attempt to challenge his prison sentence. He had challenged it before with an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in September 2016. The appeals court denied his claim that the sentence was "excessively lengthy."

Clanton was found to be a Range 1 offender, with previous convictions: Two DUIs, an arrest for evading police and a traffic ticket for a seatbelt violation.

The court found, according to appeals court documents, that Clanton "had a previous history of convictions or criminal behavior" sufficient to establish the range under which he was sentenced. He will not be eligible for early release until 2022, after serving 30 percent of his 23-year sentence. Meth dealer denied

sentence reduction