10 years for selling meth to minor in a school zone

Brookings County Sheriff's Office photo

BROOKINGS – A Brookings man who distributed methamphetamine to a minor near local schools last fall has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Aaron Aspon, 35, pleaded guilty in Brookings County Circuit Court on May 21 to two felony counts: distribution of methamphetamine to a minor and violating a drug-free zone. Four other felony drug charges were dismissed.

Aspon was facing a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a possible maximum of 35 years in prison at sentencing Tuesday.

Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said Aspon distributed meth on Sept. 13, 2018, from an apartment complex in the 700 block of Brooklawn Drive, within 1,000 feet of Medary Elementary School and Brookings High School property.

Nelson said last month that officials believe Aspon was obtaining his methamphetamine from outside Brookings County, and he was distributing the drug here alone.

Nelson said the investigation revealed that Aspon was targeting teenagers, and a few of those teens ended up in the local criminal justice system due to possession and use of meth. “So he was a high-value target for us because of the things he was doing to juveniles in the community,” Nelson said in May.

At sentencing Tuesday, Nelson said Aspon has minimized being a drug dealer, and how much and to whom he distributed.

Nelson said law enforcement in South Dakota is trying to get a handle on the meth epidemic, and he asked Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg to send a strong message to dealers that it won’t be tolerated.

The prosecutor said Brookings County is on track to set a new record for controlled substance felony convictions, and those crimes are related to offenses such as bad checks, thefts and burglaries.

Defense attorney Rick Ribstein said some things had been exaggerated in Aspon’s case. His defendant has no prior felonies on his record, but he is the “definition of an addict” who has accepted responsibility and now knows he needs help.

After Aspon was incarcerated and sober, he was a completely different person than when he was arrested, Ribstein said. Aspon was not specifically targeting teenagers, and there was no large amount of money and no guns or violence involved in this case. The attorney also referenced two former neighbors of Aspon who Ribstein said were much bigger drug dealers in the city but didn’t face charges.

“I know I messed up. I made a mistake, and I want to do better,” Aspon added.

Ribstein asked Stoltenburg to deviate from the mandatory minimum sentence.

But Stoltenburg said there weren’t mitigating circumstances to do so. Aspon had a good family support structure, is 35 years old, and “should have known better.”

The judge then sentenced Aspon to 10 years in prison on the distribution charge, with five of those years suspended, and five years in prison on the drug-free zone charge. The two sentences will be served consecutively.

Aspon must also pay court-appointed attorney fees, $213 in court costs and $60 for drug testing. He must remain law abiding and follow the rules and regulations of the Board of Pardons and Parole, and he gets credit for 69 days already served in jail.

Aspon was remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office for transport to the state penitentiary.

Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]


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