About 50 people have been charged in federal indictments in Franklin County methamphetamine cases in the first six months of 2012, a substantial increase over previous years, according to the head of the county’s drug task force.
“Normally we do 50 in one year,” Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, commander of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said this week.
Many of the suspects in those cases have pleaded guilty while others have their cases pending in federal court.
In addition to the 50 indictments so far, the task force has “numerous” other case files sitting in the U.S. attorney’s office, Grellner said.
“And we have additional cases we are preparing to file with the U.S. attorney,” he added.
Grellner said in the vast majority of cases, defendants have pleaded guilty to charges and very few have proceeded to trial.
“It’s a great sign when they don’t go to trial,” he said, noting that signifies that the task force has prepared very strong cases against suspects.
“We’ve never lost a case at trial,” Grellner said.
Meth cases taken through the federal court system typically result in suspects receiving longer sentences than through state courts which means defendants have a better chance at rehabilitation, Grellner said.
Grellner said he learned earlier this month that there would be cuts of 20 to 50 percent in federal grants for narcotics task forces.
“Many task forces will be losing significant personnel as well as vehicles and training dollars,” he remarked. “This will cripple task force efforts in Missouri.”
Grellner said Gov. Jay Nixon had included money in the new state budget to cover part of the shortfall due to cuts in federal grants, but the Legislature “at the last minute,” took that appropriation out of the budget.
He said the Franklin County task force should be able to weather the cuts. “We would’ve lost one position but we’re looking to use federal forfeiture funds to bolster the unit.”
Grellner said he is extremely frustrated with Missouri lawmakers for cutting those funds and for their failure to address the methamphetamine problem and the increasing use of heroin by citizens.
“Here we are, the No. 1 meth state in the nation and they (legislators) cut funding to fight the problem and they fail to pass a prescription mandate,” Grellner remarked.
“They talk about the drug problems, then they do absolutely nothing,” he said. “It’s very frustrating. I don’t get it.”