Aiken college student pleads to marijuana charge; others dropped

  • Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, November 30, 2012 1:55 p.m.

A college student from Aiken who law enforcement said went for his gun when being arrested is facing prison time, but not for the alleged attempt to use his gun.

Bernard Burgess, 25, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of distribution of marijuana. For admitting the charge, two other felonies – using a firearm to further a felony and distribution of cocaine and marijuana – will be dismissed.

Burgess was arrested on Feb. 22 this year by Department of Natural Resources agents. According to testimony at Wednesday's plea hearing, Burgess attempted to pull a gun on his arresting officer. However, another agent leaped across the inside of the car and grab the firearm.

The original agent was tipped-off by a strong smell of marijuana coming from the car, which was parked at a gas station near the Aiken and Bamberg county line, according to testimony. Burgess was in the driver's seat, though he denies being the driver of the stopped car.

When the vehicle was searched, $5,000 in cash and several bags of marijuana “broken up in a distribution style” were discovered in the center console, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julius N. Richardson said.

Richardson described the dropping of two charges and pleading to the single as “a reasonable and appropriate trade off for Mr. Burgess to make.”

Both distribution counts were originally for cocaine and marijuana; however, the narcotic has been removed from the remaining charge and no testimony regarding the presence of it was given.

Burgess is facing up to 10 years in a federal penitentiary on the remaining charge. However, as he has accepted responsibility for his crime, has no previous felony drug convictions and is cooperating with law enforcement, his sentence will likely be a fraction of that.

Burgess will be back in court today as he attempts to get a lower bond set, now that he is facing a lesser sentence than the 10-year mandatory minimum he faced before the plea deal was signed.

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