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Hazel sentenced to 10 years

| August 24, 2005 12:00 AM

A man convicted on felony drug charges after methamphetamine was found in his wrecked car last February was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison as a persistent felony offender.

Frank Harry Hazel II, 29, was convicted by a local jury in June of felony drug possession along with misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and DUI. Felony drug possession carries a maximum sentence of five years, but persistent felony offender status — which can be invoked when a person is convicted of two felonies within five years — brings with it a penalty of five to 100 years in prison.

At Hazel's sentencing hearing on Monday, Deputy County Attorney Robert Slomski noted that Hazel's 2001 conviction for burglary in California made him eligible for persistent offender status.

Hazel was on probation for the California burglary when he wrecked his car along U.S. Highway 2 near Granite Creek on Feb. 13. He apparently fell asleep at the wheel around 10:45 a.m. and drove into a ditch, where the vehicle rolled onto its side. Law enforcement officers who responded to the scene found a clear plastic bag containing methamphetamine in the vehicle's center console along with a broken glass pipe and a small container with a threaded top containing more methamphetamine elsewhere in the vehicle.

Officers also seized nearly $2,400 in cash found in Hazel's pockets at the time of the accident. In addition to the charges on which he was convicted, he was charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute and possession of property subject to criminal forfeiture. He was found not guilty on those two counts.

Hazel is facing additional drug charges in Flathead County after showing up to report to his probation officer with methamphetamine in his car. A container with more than 5 ounces of the drug was uncovered during a search of the vehicle.

Hazel's probation officer in Kalispell, Paula Meyer, testified on Monday that he has failed to show up for scheduled appointments on multiple occasions and that he has admitted to using methamphetamine while on probation. Those admissions are backed up by the results of urine tests, Meyer said.

Hazel's attorney, Charles Sprinkle, suggested a five-year sentence with a "reasonable amount" suspended and placement in a drug treatment program. Hazel admitted he has a drug problem and said he would like to see justice done.

"To me justice is not throwing me in prison for five years and throwing away the key," he said. "I've got three kids and a wife out there, and they need my financial support."

In sentencing Hazel, Judge Michael Prezeau stressed that he was not taking into consideration the charges pending against Hazel in Flathead County. He said the sentence reflects Hazel's criminal history and his refusal to take responsibility for his conduct. In addition to the felony sentence, Hazel received concurrent six-month sentences for the two misdemeanors with fines of $250 for the drug paraphernalia conviction and $300 for the DUI.