Crime

Judge rules Rock Hill cops’ drug seizure legal after convicted dealer caught again

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On the cusp of a trial, a Rock Hill drug dealer took a plea deal after a judge ruled narcotics seized in a traffic stop could be used against him, prosecutors said.

Melvin Jerome Nelson Jr., 36, was sentenced to 16 years after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to trafficking cocaine and meth, and possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute, said 16th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Dan Porter.

Nelson had been out of prison less than a year after serving 10 years for a drug conviction when he was charged again in November 2017 for dealing drugs, prosecutors said.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2007 for the crack possession with intent to distribute charge, then paroled in January 2017 after 10 years when South Carolina law enacted by the General Assembly changed to allow early release for some drug offenders, prosecutors said.

Nelson is not eligible for parole for the current convictions, prosecutors said.

In a statement from the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office on Facebook, prosecutors stated, “Nelson effectively rejected the Legislature’s gift and is back where he started.”

A trial on the 2017 charges was ready to begin Tuesday at the Moss Justice Center in York when Nelson pleaded guilty after a suppression hearing about the drugs that were found.

Convictions for third offense trafficking meth and cocaine carry up to 30 years each under South Carolina sentencing laws.

Judge Bill McKinnon upheld that the drugs located under Nelson’s driver seat during a November 2017 Rock Hill Police Department stop were legally seized, Porter said.

Police found 27 grams of cocaine, 15 grams of meth and 12 grams of fentanyl after pulling over Nelson for driving left of center near downtown Rock Hill, Porter said. Officers saw a baggie of marijuana in plain view during the stop, then found the other drugs during a search of the car, prosecutors said.

Nelson’s lawyer argued in the suppression hearing that the drugs were found after an illegal stop and search by police.

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