A visiting judge sentenced two men, including the son of a former area official, to probation for convictions of conspiracy and illegal cultivation of marijuana on Friday.
Thomas Betz, 39, the son of former Miami Valley Crime Lab director Ken Betz, and Michael Dorley, 41, could have faced more than a decade in prison. Some of their crimes carried an assumption of prison, but that was not mandatory in a case in which law enforcement seized more than 44 pounds of marijuana.
Betz pleaded guilty to first-degree felony conspiracy, illegal cultivation and money laundering. Visiting Judge Thomas Herman, who retired from Clermont County, said a potential prison sentence will hang over Betz if he violates his community control of up to five years, asking, “We’re up to 17 years, Mr. Betz, do you understand that?”
Dorley also received up to five years’ probation and could face 11 years for his second-degree felony conspiracy charge and up to 36 months for the cultivation charge.
“Our job as prosecutors is to make sure that defendants are held accountable for breaking the law,” said Butler County assistant prosecutor Jon Marshall, who was named as a special prosecutor to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“That happened here with their convictions. The police were able to investigate this case thoroughly. They were able to stop a major marijuana grow operation. As a result of the police’s hard work, we were able to convict both of these defendants of very serious charges.”
Marshall had asked Herman to honor the presumption of prison, which the judge said was not necessary because of the defendants’ lack of any serious criminal record and there were no victims.
“All we can do is convict the offenders,” said Marshall, who was denied in his effort to have the judge make the five years’ probation mandatory. “It’s up to the judge to sentence them.”
Herman said he accepted the presumption of prison but that he made the applicable finding that community control sanctions “would adequately punish this offender and protect the public from future crime.”
Defense attorney James Ambrose told the judge he’s known Ken Betz for 56 years and remembers when “Tommy” was born.
“These are not felons,” Ambrose said of the defendants, adding that, “these young men” had no violations of their pre-trial conditions.
“There’s zero chance of me ever being in before the court again,” Betz said while apologizing to his friends and family. “I’m ashamed of what I’ve done.”
Betz was made to forfeit $75,000 of the sale of a residence at 5753 Woodville Dr. in Dayton where the grow operation was discovered, a 2011 GMC Denali and three bank accounts worth about $10,000. Herman also ordered intensive probation to start, treatment services and 80 hours of community service
Both Betz and Dorley were fined $5,000 for the illegal cultivation charge.
Frank Malocu, Dorley’s attorney, said his client smoked marijuana “continuously” for 20 years and grew pot to satisfy the habit, but that he’s quit and dropped clean urine tests for nearly a year.