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Cocaine buy might bring 40-year jail term

With his conviction for purchasing a small amount of cocaine from a sheriff's deputy, Roger Dallas Mason might face up to 40 years in prison. Normally, convictions for purchasing cocaine and possession of cocaine bring a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But that could be doubled under the state's laws for habitual offenders.

Mason, 38, of 8091 Winter St., Brooksville, was convicted of the drug charges in a trial that ended late Wednesday, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead said.

According to Patricia McCarthy, the assistant state attorney who prosecuted the case, Mason bought $20 of cocaine from an undercover detective at the Golden Gate Food Mart in August.

McCarthy said the two counts were Mason's fifth and sixth felony convictions.

The state law for habitual offenders requires two previous felony convictions, one within five years of the offense being tried.

The law is not new. But certain stipulations were removed recently to make the law easier to apply _ especially to drug offenders, McCarthy said.

There is no guarantee that Mason will be judged a habitual offender, she said. His sentencing date has not been set. And state probation and parole workers must conduct a pre-sentence investigation before recommending a sentence. McCarthy also will make a recommendation. But, she said, "The court will be the ultimate authority."

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