A Barnwell man, who balked at a November plea hearing after discovering that his criminal past could mean a minimum of 15 years in prison on just one of the counts he was admitting, has now signed a plea agreement and is awaiting sentencing.


Julius Cuthbertson, 31, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Columbia to charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack cocaine) and being a felon in possession of a firearm.


The firearm charge can mean up to 10 years in prison, normally. However, a felon with a history of three violent crimes faces an enhancement and a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life-in-prison. Cuthbertson has two convictions for assault and battery with intent to kill and, years before, one for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.


James P. Rogers, Cuthbertson’s lawyer, told his client that the decade-old assault and battery charge would not be held against him and so Cuthbertson would not face the enhanced charge. Rogers expressed his reading of the law, as the final decision would be that of Chief Judge Margaret Seymour. His client, however, was unaware that this was an opinion and not the letter of the law.


As well as a possible 15-years for the gun charge, the defendant is also facing up to 20 years for the cocaine charge. If Cuthbertson had not accepted the plea agreement, he would have been facing trial this week on these charges, plus two related counts that have now been dropped.


On Monday, the U.S. Marshalls Service filed paperwork so that Cuthbertson could be transported to federal facilities in order for him to be interviewed and to take polygraph examinations.


As well as facing a lengthy sentence, the defendant must also forfeit any claim to a firearm he admits using to further his crimes. The High Point CF380, a .38 calibre pistol, with an obliterated serial number and “numerous rounds of ammunition” will be signed over to the government.