Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

January 18, 2014

Parole absconder sentenced for drugs

TRAVERSE CITY — A Detroit area man arrested as a parole absconder after a scuffle outside Traverse City’s Holiday Inn received a 4-year prison sentence on a drug charge.

Jerry Lee Duhart, 36, appeared Friday in 13th Circuit Court after pleading guilty to possession of crack cocaine.

On Nov. 17, Traverse City police investigated a fight in the hotel’s parking lot and arrested Duhart after they found he was wanted for absconding parole. Grand Traverse County jail deputies found 5 grams of crack cocaine sealed in nine plastic bag hidden on his body during his booking.

Duhart’s attorney Janet Mistele told Judge Thomas Power that Duhart didn’t intentionally take the drugs into the jail, but was “out of it” after being knocked unconscious in fight. Duhart, who grew up near Charlevoix, said he struggled with a drug and alcohol problem and hoped to raise his children away from Detroit.

But Power agreed with Grand Traverse County Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg that anytime drugs are transported into jail it “threatens the welfare of the penal institution.” He sentenced Duhart to 23 months to 4 years in prison to be served consecutively with Duhart’s parole violation sentence.

Another criminal case involving fisticuffs at the same hotel is going forward.

Kyle Lee Denny, 27, of Mesick, and Valerie Ann Wegner, 22, of Kingsley, both face misdemeanor charges connected with a brawl in the parking lot that ended in four arrests. Denny is charged with assault and battery and Wegner faces two counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer.

A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 6 in 86th District Court.

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