Detective: Drug dealer has changed

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An Altoona detective who normally asks judges to impose long jail terms on drug dealers took the opposite position Friday, seeking probation for an area man who he said has turned his life in a positive direction.

“This is one of the best turnarounds I’ve seen,” said Altoona Detective Sgt. Troy Johannides, who spoke on behalf of Rodney Alexander Sorrell Jr., 31.

Sorrell was arrested in 2009 on 12 drug-related offenses. He faced 20 years in prison and fines in the $200,000 range when he came before Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron, who often rejects plea agreements for drug dealers because they don’t include enough jail time.

Milliron took a cautious approach when Sorrell came before him with a recommendation of 10 years’ probation, as opposed to long jail time.

The judge met in his chambers with Johannides, Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks and Sorrell’s attorney, Phillip O. Robertson, to discuss the case.

The judge accepted the plea agreement after Sorrell told him, “I am happy with the life I’m living now. The life I was living wasn’t right.”

According to Johannides, Sorrell got involved in the drug world when he came to Blair County from Virginia to attend school.

In 2005, police searched a vehicle in which Sorrell was riding and found drugs. That case was dismissed by Blair County Judge Hiram A. Carpenter, when he found that police had no “reasonable suspicion” to search the vehicle, other than that the man in the car with Sorrell was a known drug user.

In 2009 Sorrell was charged with 12 offenses, most occurring within a three-month period.

He was sentenced Friday on 12 counts of conspiracy to possess illegal drugs with intent to distribute. The counts all involved conspiracy to sell small amounts of drugs.

Johannides said that Sorrell worked with police to help cut off major shipments of cocaine between Baltimore and Altoona, played a role that nipped a flow of ecstasy from Detroit and helped police at one point to confiscate more than 1,200 packets of heroin before they hit the streets.

The officer said that Sorrell was helped in his turnaround “by a great family.”

“He had the willingness and attitude to do this,” Johannides said. “I had no problems speaking for him.”

He said Sorrell is a good worker and has a job outside the area.

Robertson said he has known Sorrell for many years and said he has “no doubt” his turn away from drugs is real. He said Sorrell has always worked and doesn’t want to go back to life in the drug world.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.