Judge: Meth maker can finish sentence in county prison

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Roaring Spring-area man who has been in Blair County Prison for two years on charges linked to making methamphetamine at his residence has a chance to finish his incarceration at the county prison.

Judge Jolene G. Kopriva on Thursday imposed a state sentence of 2 1/2 to five years on Robert Charles Franklin, 40, then removed a day from the minimum and maximum range so it could be served in Blair County.

The judge also credited Franklin with time served, so his release date will be in about six months, as long as Franklin participates in a required drug and alcohol treatment program and a mental health assessment. Failure to comply will put Franklin at risk of a lengthy state prison sentence.

“This is a one-shot option,” the judge told Franklin in court.

Franklin was arrested in May 2015 after state police at Hollidaysburg responded to a domestic dispute at 1108 Cross Cove Road and found him leaving a residence with a bucket of chemicals that he put in the back of his truck.

Inside the house, state police personnel saw more chemicals and collected evidence indicating that Franklin, for about a year, had been using a one-pot method to produce meth. Making meth is associated with a high risk of fire, and at the time of Franklin’s arrest, he was sharing the residence with a girlfriend and three children.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to operating a meth lab, risking a catastrophe, endangering the welfare of children and related charges.

In court Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks recommended a lengthy state prison sentence, telling Kopriva that Franklin’s activity presented “an extreme risk to the community.” Weeks also recommended Franklin’s transfer to a state prison.

“We have been aggressively prosecuting these meth lab cases, but we haven’t been getting significant sentences being handed down like in some other counties,” Weeks said after the sentencing.

In late October, a Jefferson County judge imposed a sentence of 24-87 years on a Punxsutawney man convicted of operating a meth lab inside a Brookville house and inside a mobile home in Glen Campbell. Despite Jason Bingaman’s pleas for mercy based on his addiction, Judge John H. Foradora pointed to Bingaman’s offenses and prior offenses before deeming the sentence to be “long but appropriate.”

Kopriva’s sentence for Franklin is appropriate, Chief Public Defender Russ Montgomery said after the sentencing.

“He’s a guy that’s 40 years old, never been in trouble before, and I think he has a good shot of not being in trouble again,” Montgomery said. “I think that’s why the judge decided against sending him to a state penitentiary.”

Kopriva initially indicated that she was going to send Franklin to a state prison where he would have access to more treatment programs and personnel than available at the county prison. But Franklin told her that since entering the county prison, he is no longer interested in meth, which he used solely for his own use and to address his medical ailments.

Franklin also told the judge that being incarcerated for two years has forced him to ask for help from family members and that upon release, he could live with his mother, who needs help.

In her sentencing order, Kopriva deemed Franklin to be “prepared and committed to make changes.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.