User and dealer of crack gets up to 5 years in state prison

Quion Bratten faced a mandatory minimum state prison term of three to six years after he was convicted by a jury for possession with intent to deliver 2.3 grams of crack cocaine last December.

Instead, Bratten, 26, received a sentence of 27 months to five years from Judge Marc Lovecchio on Tuesday morning.

The reduced sentence came from distinctions in the law between drugs held for personal use and those that presumably will be sold.

Mandatory sentences for the intent to deliver crack cocaine start at a threshold of 2 grams. The prosecution maintained throughout Bratten’s two trials – his case hung a jury in March 2012 – that he intended to sell all the cocaine he had on him when arrested outside the Finish Line Cafe in the early morning of Oct. 1, 2011.

At his first trial, the state argued that Bratten’s admitted crack usage and his habit of abusing cough syrup didn’t mix.

“People raised an eyebrow at the syrup issue at trial,” defense attorney Nicole Spring said at the sentencing hearing. “It took the commonwealth’s expert by surprise – they’d never heard of someone using syrup before they’d testified in the first trial.”

A pharmacist advising the state was under the misunderstanding Bratten was mixing crack with water-based, over-the-counter cough medication, which would not work. Rather, Bratten was mixing cocaine with prescription medicine in a mix called “purple drank” or “lean” that first became popular in Houston in the 1990s.

“A few weeks ago Lil Wayne, the rapper, was hospitalized for that mix,” Spring said. “On argument alone the commonwealth can’t find that (Bratten) didn’t mean to use some of the cocaine.”

“Though his testimony that he didn’t mean to deliver any of the crack wasn’t convincing to the jury, it’s clear the defendant was an active user,” Lovecchio said during the sentencing hearing. “The state hasn’t met the preponderance to prove he intended to sell over two grams of cocaine.”

“I want to try to stop my nonsense,” Bratten said. “I almost lost my child, coming and visiting, that’s very hard.”

Bratten has 18 months of time served credit, as he’s been in Lycoming County Prison since his arrest.