— A Lauderdale, Minnesota, man was sentenced in
Kandiyohi County District Court
to more than five years on a firearms-related charge and a concurrent 4 1/2 years on a drug charge.
Ervin Lamar James, 36, entered a plea of guilty to an amended count of third-degree drug sale and an Alford guilty plea to a charge of felon in possession of ammunition. He was initially charged with first-degree drug sale.
The sentences were handed down July 17 by Judge Stephen Wentzell, who credited James with 19 days already served.
Per the plea petition, James agreed to plead guilty to the third-degree drug sale charge and receive a "top of the box" prison sentence in accordance with Minnesota's sentencing guidelines, meaning the longest sentence in the range. He also agreed to enter an Alford guilty plea to the possession of firearm ammunition. In exchange, two other counts of drug possession were dismissed.
An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain innocence on the record, but acknowledges a prosecutor has evidence that would more than likely render a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Alford pleas are treated as regular guilty pleas and have no bearing on the length of a sentence.
Under Minnesota law, offenders are required to serve at least two-thirds of a sentence in custody and may be allowed to serve the remaining time on supervised release. According to the
Minnesota Department of Corrections
, James' expected release date the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud is Nov. 17, 2026.
According to the criminal complaint, the CEE-VI Drug and Gang Task Force worked in May 2020 with a confidential informant to purchase cocaine from James. The informant was given $2,530 in Task Force funds and outfitted with an audio recording device.
A meeting was set at a gas station along U.S. Highway 12 in Willmar, and task force agents followed and observed James enter the informant's vehicle and later watched him leave.
According to the complaint, the informant then provided agents with three plastic bags, two of which contained a white powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine. The weight was approximately 55.5 grams with packaging.
Agents located the Task Force funds on James when he was arrested.
A search of James' vehicle yielded a bag with a white powdery substance that weighed about 0.6 grams with packaging; two plastic bags of a green leafy substance weighing approximately 9.4 grams that field tested positive for marijuana; a digital scale from the rear pouch of the passenger seat and a box of handgun ammunition located in the trunk, according to the complaint.
James told officers he would test positive for cocaine and said the cocaine found in the driver's side door belonged to him. He said he was driving his girlfriend's car and denied knowing about the digital scales or ammunition found in the vehicle.
He told officers he crushed Excedrin into powder to look like cocaine to sell it. According to the complaint, James stated he only sprinkled cocaine on top of the mixtures, which is why they tested positive.
A man who was with James said the marijuana belonged to him but he did not know anything about a drug transaction or cocaine.