Judge denies probation request, sentences man to 6 years in prison



OSWEGO — A Labette County judge ordered a Parsons man on Tuesday to serve about six years in prison for distributing methamphetamine.

William W. Schroeder, 44, of Parsons previously pleaded no contest in separate cases to distribution of methamphetamine and aggravated assault, both felonies, though the distribution charge had a more serious penalty. Other charges and another case were dismissed as part of the plea in Labette County District Court. Schroeder was convicted of threatening a woman with a handgun on April 7, 2017, in rural Labette County. The drug distribution charge related to a controlled purchase of meth on May 26, 2017, involving law enforcement and an informant.

The cases were filed in 2017 and have been delayed over the months and years in part because Schroeder changed from a hired attorney to a court-appointed attorney, JoAnna Derfelt. Plea negotiations took some time as did finding time in the court and attorney’s calendars for hearings.

In the assault case, Judge Fred W. Johnson sentenced Schroeder to 27 months in prison and took the issue of probation under advisement until he heard evidence in the other case.

In the distribution case, Schroeder’s criminal history score bumped up to a B. A level three distribution charge could lead to a prison term no matter a defendant’s criminal history score, however, which is why Derfelt asked the judge to depart from sentencing law and brought in witnesses to testify in support of that request.

Deputy County Attorney Mandy Johnson recommended a prison term for Schroeder and wanted the sentences in each case to be served consecutively, or back to back.

Derfelt called four witnesses to testify in support of probation for Schroeder. After the fourth witness testified, Derfelt said she would save the court some time and asked the 12 supporters (family, friends, coworkers) in the courtroom to stand if they would like for Schroeder to get probation. A dozen people stood up, as did a 13th man who was awaiting sentencing in an unrelated case.

Schroeder was the first to testify in the request for probation. He said he hadn’t used meth and had kept a job since his 81-day jail stay in 2017 that followed his arrest. He had a drug and alcohol evaluation but the evaluator told him he couldn’t recommend drug treatment because Schroeder had gone so long without using the stimulant, Schroeder testified.

He has been on bond supervision since 2017 and subject to random drug testing. He said his tests have been clean.

Schroeder said he now works construction and has worked in the last three years to repair damaged family relationships because of his meth addiction. His addiction and behavior during that phase from 2014 to 2017 pretty much took everything from him, he said. He hasn’t wanted meth since he got out of jail and began concentrating on work and family and trying to do right with his life.

He testified that he sold meth to support his habit. He said he bought it cheap and sold it at an elevated price. He said he was down to 150 pounds in the throes of addiction and his ex-wife, with whom he has two children, remained brutally honest with him. “She told me I looked like hell.”

Schroeder discussed his criminal history, which dated back two decades, and appeared to minimize his involvement in a 2012 incident in which he was convicted of endangering a child. He said he was drunk and had a gun in his house. Prosecutor Johnson questioned him on this and discussed the charges dismissed in that case of which Schroeder received the benefit of a plea, including an aggravated assault charge that was dismissed. Derfelt argued relevance and the prosecutor eventually ended her questioning on that issue. 

Schroeder’s ex-wife testified that they divorced in 2009 but remained friends. They have two kids together, two sons, one is 20 and the other 14.

“He’s a good person. He really is,” Michelle Beery said of Schroeder.

In the years since Schroeder’s release from jail in 2017, she testified that Schroeder has taken accountability for everything he’d done and apologized “many times over.”

“He’s owned up to everything.”

He’s repaired his relationships with family and his children.

A co-worker testified briefly and then Schroeder’s oldest son, Isaac, testified about the change he’s seen in his father. When his father got out of jail, the addict disappeared. His old father returned, the man who coached his sports teams, helped him with homework and was there when needed.

Schroeder now has a grandchild, born in August, Isaac said. Isaac’s son loves his grandpa and he “lights up when he sees him.”

After testimony, Derfelt argued for probation for Schroeder. She said he’s been doing all he can on his own to stay off of meth. And his bond supervision, which is like probation and involves regular contact with a probation officer and drug testing while free on bond, has gone without a hiccup.

“I don’t think we’ve seen that in any other case,” Derfelt said.

When asked if he had anything to say before the sentence was pronounced, Schroeder asked for a chance. He remembered the judge’s warning when he was released on bond in 2017 that he got one chance and bond supervision was it. The judge told him he gave him just enough rope, or freedom, to hang himself with it, Schroeder said. He said he decided to weave that rope into a Christmas wreath and worked to improve his life and his family life. He said he’s done that.

“I’ve not been in no trouble,” he said.

“And I think I deserve this chance.”

Judge Johnson said he considered all the information in the case and Schroeder’s actions and the support he had. He said he would not depart from sentencing guidelines and sentenced Schroeder to 73 months in prison, just over six years, giving him credit for 81 days already served. Schroeder will be on parole supervision for three years after his release. Johnson made one concession in that the prison terms in both cases would be served at the same time. 

Derfelt asked if Schroeder could have some time to report to jail to say his good-byes. Judge Johnson gave him until 5 p.m. Wednesday to report to jail to begin his sentence. The jail log shows that Schroeder was booked at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday.

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