Newschannel 6 Exclusive: Meth Makers on Parole

Texoma Law Enforcement say the Crystal Meth problem is getting worse.

On Tuesday, a thirteenth person was busted in a massive meth smurfing ring spanning from Wichita Falls to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Even though law enforcement is locking these meth makers up, there is a good chance they won't stay in jail for long.

Clay County Sheriff Kenny Lemons has fought the war on drugs for over 20 years. He explained the battle to clean up Texoma's streets is worse than ever before.

"I've seen it start out small and particular to now, they are just doing it everywhere they can. It's just such a big problem and it takes all of us to try and work on it," said Sheriff Lemons.

Currently, 40 year old George Robert Weist, is sitting in a Wichita County jail charged with Manufacture-Delivery of a Controlled Substance over 400 grams and Possession of Certain Chemicals with Intent to Manufacture a Controlled Substance. Police tell Newschannel 6 Weist has a history with drugs.

Sheriff Kenny Lemons, is not surprised.

"It seems like it's the same ones over and over again. So it gets frustrating sometimes when you keep putting these people in jail and you keep coming across them with these drug labs," he said, visibly upset.

In Clay County, over 400 grams of liquid meth was found in an abandoned house. Law enforcement arrested 3 people from Burkburnett who they say were on drugs for days.

One of them, Eric Ray Menasco, is no stranger to the Sheriff. The 43 year old was on parole for drug possession when he was busted for the meth lab. Drug offenses weren't Menasco's only convictions. He's been in and out of prison since 1993 with a long list of offenses including robbery, larceny, and assault.

"He's such hard core, he's been to prison a couple of times. I mean, he 'aint scared," said the Sheriff, holding Menasco's wrap sheet. "These people are shooting at our cops right now. These folks are more dangerous now than they have ever been in the methamphetamine world. They are shooting at us...boobie traps!"

Law enforcement, judges, and juries in Texoma want to win the war on drugs by sentencing habitual users to hard time. Yet many of the prisoners that are sentenced behind bars are being released early. 

In 2002, Brian Keith Kinnett, a convicted felon on probation for aggravated assault, was caught by the cops with nearly 200 grams of meth. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. Just days after he posted bail, he was caught again with meth.

A Wichita County Jury convicted Kinnett and sentenced him to 85 years in prison. Even though his maximum sentence date should be in 2088, Brian Keith Kinnett is now eligible for parole after serving just 7 years.

"The citizens, the folks that make up those juries say enough is enough, give them 75 years and he's out before the paint gets dry," said Lemons. "It's a revolving door. The judges are doing their job, the juries are doing their job, these folks are getting stiff sentences but they aint serving them. Why should we have to suffer, over and over and over again, by the same people? That's what's frustrating."

Wichita County resident Don Marshall Horton also has a long history with drugs. Within a 6 month period, Horton was charged with 8 separate cases involving either meth making or possession.  He was convicted on 3 manufacturing charges and sentenced to 99 years for each charge. Though his maximum sentence would be through 2103, he is up for up for parole right now.

"What is our state doing to us? We're putting them in jail and they are kicking them out," yelled Lemons.

Both Brian Keith Kinnett and Don Horton are in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities awaiting parole. The Sheriff blames budget constraints and overcrowding for inmates early release. State officials don't agree.

"The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is not facing any overcrowding issues at this time. We are actually at 97% capacity, so we do still have a few thousand beds that are available for inmate placement," said Michelle Lyons, Director of Public Information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Though the TDCJ had to cut about $40 million from its budget, the spokesperson for the Department says money doesn't factor into an inmate's release.

"One thing I would stress, when we are facing budget cuts we look to modify programs or delay certain purchases. But one thing we don't look to do is release inmates early, especially inmates who are not eligible for parole," explained Lyons.

Many may be surprised just how much time offenders need to spend behind bars before they are eligible for parole.

'In Texas, you come up for parole when you've served one fourth of your sentence with calendar time- the day to day time you serve - and the good time you earn. They get about 30 days to 40 days a month of good time. When that equals one fourth of your sentence, you're reviewed for parole," explained Troy Fox with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The Board of Pardons and Paroles takes many factors into consideration, including past history, and whether or not the offense was violent. Inmates with certain aggravated crimes, such as murder, must serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.

However for drug offenses, like the ones Horton and Kinnett were convicted of, offenders would only have to serve one quarter of their sentence worth of flat time plus good time before they are eligible.

In the case of Brian Kinnett, one fourth of a 85 year sentence would be 21.5 years.  With good time and other considerations factored in,  he would only need to serve one third of that, approximately 7 years, before he's eligible for parole. Basically, the offender can be eligible for release after serving less than 10 percent of their original sentence. 

Sheriff Lemons feels more time should be served.

"I just think it's priority, I think a lot of times we lose track of our priorities. And law enforcement has their priorities set straight," said Sheriff Lemons. "We're going to catch the bad guys, we're going to put him in jail, and we are going to send him to prison. Now the folks that handle the rest of that, maybe they need to get their priorities straight."

If the parole board does not grant Brian Keith Kinnett and Don Horton release from prison, their cases will be reviewed by a 3 member panel again in a year. The panel takes letters from members of the community into consideration when they are reviewing cases.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6