Heroin dealer sentenced to time served in order to pursue recovery
ELKTON — Nathan Tyler Baeder wound up in jail on Feb. 20 after investigators found and confiscated a loaded handgun that was stashed inside his shoe and heroin that was inside his pockets during a traffic stop near Elkton.
For Elkton-area resident Baeder, 18, it marked a turning point.
“My client didn’t even know he was addicted to heroin until he got locked up and went through withdrawal in the jail. He had just turned 18 three months earlier,” his Elkton-based defense lawyer William F. Riddle said. “In his (presentencing investigation) report that’s what he told the investigator.”
Baeder admitted that he “sells heroin” during an interview with the arresting officer, Deputy Charles Travis of the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, after the traffic stop at the intersection of Elkton Road and Belle Hill Road at about 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20, police said.
In addition, police added, Baeder told Travis that he had bought the silver handgun for $50 approximately three weeks earlier. That loaded gun was found inside his right shoe, police noted. Baeder was a front-seat passenger in a Honda that Travis stopped at that intersection because the driver, who was not charged, allegedly failed to use his turn signal, police reported.
Because he smelled what he believed was marijuana coming from the Honda, the deputy ordered Baeder and the driver out of the car so he could search them and the vehicle, according to court records, which indicate that CCSO Dfc. Joseph Brewer, who is with the agency’s K-9 Unit, assisted at the scene.
During a pat-down search of Baeder, investigators found a green Crown Royal bag holding several packets of heroin, in addition to loose packets containing that drug inside one of his jacket pockets, according to court records.
Riddle told the Cecil Whig on Wednesday that his client sold heroin only to support his addiction and that he possessed the gun solely for protection, because of the inherent dangers associated with his illegal activities to feed his habit.
Facing nine criminal charges, including heroin distribution while possessing a firearm and possession of heroin with intent to distribute, Baeder remained in the Cecil County Detention Center for 43 days in lieu of $50,000 bond — until his bail review hearing in early April.
That’s when Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Brenda A. Sexton allowed Baeder’s release from jail — with the caveat that he went directly into residential drug treatment. It was part of an agreement marked by monitoring and other conditions, including that Baeder get a job once he reached outpatient status, which he recently honored.
Baeder spent the next three and a half months in Florida, where he successfully completed an in-patient substance abuse treatment program and then was permitted to live in a halfway house, Riddle said. Afterward, he added, Baeder was allowed to return to Cecil County to continue his treatment.
The teen was so commit- ted to maintaining his sobriety that he left one area treatment center and admitted himself to a Western Maryland facility, where he spent 30 more days receiving help, according to Riddle.
“Nathan didn’t think that the patients at the (first) facility he went to were taking their treatment seriously, and he was afraid he might fall back into it (heroin use) again,” Riddle explained.
On Aug. 21, still drug-free and still undergoing treatment and counseling, Baeder pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute and possession of a handgun by a minor, as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped all remaining charges. Riddle and Deputy State’s Attorney Karl H. Fockler had negotiated the plea agreement.
That set the stage for Baeder’s sentencing on Tuesday, when his relatives and friends filled the pews on one side of the courtroom in support of him. Moreover, several of those people had submitted supportive letters to the court for the judge’s consideration at sentencing. Riddle produced certificates reflecting Baeder’s successful completion of his drug treatment programs.
Nevertheless, while acknowledging that Baeder had, indeed, made progress, Fockler sought an 18-month term for Baeder at the county jail. He recommended a 10-year sentence with 8½ years suspended on the heroin conviction and a consecutive, suspended five-year sentence on the firearm conviction.
In making his recommendation, Fockler said he considered Baeder’s young age and his lack of prior convictions. The prosecutor also reported that state sentencing guidelines, which are based on a defendant’s criminal record and other factors, set a penalty range of six months to three years of active incarceration for Baeder.
“He is seeking recovery and has certainly taken steps. But, despite that fact, there needs to be punishment for his crime, which involved a loaded handgun. We also have a duty to protect the public,” Fockler commented, explaining that punishment, safeguarding the community and deterrence are the goals of sentencing.
Leaning toward Riddle’s recommendation, however, Sexton imposed a 10-year sentence on Baeder — still reportedly drug-free and receiving treatment — for his heroin with intent to distribute conviction and then suspended all but the 43 days that he had spent in jail after his arrest.
In addition, Sexton imposed a consecutive threeyear sentence, which she also suspended, for Baeder’s gun conviction.
“The judge was willing to take a chance on him,” Fockler summarized.
Sexton also ordered Baeder to serve four years of supervised probation, listing several conditions, including that he attend four Narcotics Anonymous meetings per week and that he continue with his substance abuse treatment and counseling.
“The judge hung 13 years over his head, minus the 43 days he already served, so if he messes up, that’s what he could receive,” Riddle said, adding, “But he has plenty of support, and Nathan is very committed to his sobriety. My client is certainly glad about the sentence he received, but this has been an eye-opening experience for him — getting arrested, going to jail, going to court and getting sentenced.”