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Decatur drug dealer, caught in sting operation, sentenced to prison

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DECATUR — A 51-year-old Decatur drug dealer, caught red-handed delivering cocaine in a police sting operation, was sent to prison for 7½ years on Tuesday.

Robert L. Gray had appeared in Macon County Circuit Court pleading guilty to delivering more than 50 grams of cocaine on May 17, 2018.

“I hope you are going to stay out of trouble when you get out again,” Presiding Judge Thomas Griffith told Gray as he handed down the sentence. “You are getting too old for this.”

The penalty range available to the judge in the open plea Class X felony case was from six to 60 years.

Gray had earlier addressed the court and said he had only delivered the drugs as a favor to his stepson, Deandri L. Burton. A sworn Decatur police affidavit described Burton as a significant drug dealer who had been targeted by the police department’s Street Crimes unit. Officers had conducted a series of controlled drug purchases as they built their case against him with audio and visual eavesdropping authorized by the FBI.

“My stepson asked me if I would do him a favor and I did him a favor, you know what I am saying?” Gray told the judge. “I didn’t know what I was doing at the time because I was intoxicated.”

Defense attorney Chris Amero pointed out that Gray had been working as a restaurant dishwasher, looked after his ailing wife and mother, and was doing his best now to lead an honest life. He also noted that a pre-sentence report said Gray suffered from undiagnosed mental health issues and “hears voices” in a condition that needed treatment.

Pleading for a minimal sentence, Amero added: “Mr. Gray is never going to come before the court again, your honor, so a minimum term of imprisonment will shove him in the right direction… he was heading in the right direction but, for whatever reason, he got caught-up in this.”

Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney David Perry asked for a nine year sentence and pointed out that Gray had a criminal history dating back to 1989 which included seven prior prison terms.

Griffith described Gray’s criminal history as “poor” and said he was particularly concerned by convictions for robbery in 1997, aggravated robbery in 2002 and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon in 1992.

The judge also said he doubted whether Gray had just been doing his stepson a favor before his latest arrest. “It’s my sense Mr. Gray… was probably trying to make himself a few extra dollars and got caught up in a police sting operation,” said Griffith.

The judge recommended that Gray receives substance abuse treatment while incarcerated.

A check of court records shows that Burton, Gray’s 33-year-old stepson, was sentenced to six years in prison in 2020 after pleading guilty to dealing in cocaine.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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