A Franklin County jury deliberated for less than 20 minutes before finding a St. Clair man guilty of drug charges.

Steven M. Sutherland, 58, was found guilty by a jury of eight women and four men Friday, April 12, for 2015 charges of possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, three charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, as well as possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The one-day trial was held in Franklin County Circuit Court in front of 12th Circuit Court Judge Michael S. Wright, of Warren County.

In October 2018, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Sutherland who missed the start of a scheduled jury trial.

Sutherland is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wright June 14 following a sentencing assessment report, according to Franklin County Prosecutor Matt Becker.

Court records state that Sutherland initially was charged in the Franklin County Associate Circuit Court July 10, 2015. In January 2016 the case was transferred to the Franklin County 20th District Circuit Court.

According to the probable cause statement for the original charges filed by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in the prosecutor’s office, on Jan. 23, 2015, Sutherland was in possession of about 110 grams of marijuana and 21 marijuana plants in various stages of growth. The plants were located in his home on Highway K.

Detectives searched the residence and seized numerous marijuana pipes, rolling papers, digital scales, handheld scales and other paraphernalia.

Becker added that Sutherland was in possession of grow lights and ballasts, indicating that marijuana was grown at his home. Sutherland also was in possession of pots, potting soil and other items used in the growth of marijuana.

“People shouldn’t get the impression that this was a guy with some joints,” said Becker. “This was not a marginal case.”

He added that to be charged with a felony, a person must be in possession of at least 35 grams of marijuana. 

Authorities allege Sutherland, a convicted felon, was illegally in possession of a Martin .22-caliber rifle, Winchester 30-30 rifle and a Century Arms rifle.

After failing to appear to a jury trial scheduled for Oct. 11, 2018, Sutherland stated he checked himself in to SSM Health DePaul Hospital, Bridgeton.