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Drug charges lead to stiff prison sentence

What began as a traffic stop ended with a jury finding a Waynesville man guilty last week on methamphetamine-related charges, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones said. 

Clifford Nathanial “Nathan” Warren, 42, received an active sentence of 144 months to 185 months in the N.C. Department of Corrections. He faced two charges: possession with intent to sell or deliver methamphetamine and felony conspiracy with intent to sell or deliver methamphetamine.

If a defendant has three or more felony convictions, it’s within the prosecutor’s discretion to seek habitual felon status, Jones said. Warren had criminal records in Florida and North Carolina that included three felony convictions; additionally, he violated probation in this state on a prior 2012 misdemeanor larceny conviction, leading to sentencing in the aggravated range on North Carolina’s felony punishment chart.   

“District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch has an unapologetic policy across the seven-county 43rd Prosecutorial District of being tough on drugs and crime,” Jones said about the decision to seek habitual felon status against Warren. 

Superior Court Judge Bradley B. Letts found Warren did qualify for the enhanced-sentencing status of habitual felon, leading to the lengthy active time in prison, plus a second identical sentence, running concurrently.

Without habitual felon status, his sentence would have been lower: a minimum of 25 months to a maximum of 39 months in the aggravated range. 

On July 12, 2018, Waynesville Police Officer Evan A. Davis observed two men get out of a white Dodge Dart and enter the Shell gasoline station on Russ Avenue in Waynesville. He reported the men were talking to another individual with recent felony drug charges.

When the Dodge left the service station and turned onto U.S. 23/74, Davis followed in his patrol vehicle, clocking the speed of the car at 68 mph in a 60 mph zone. On Asheville Road, the driver initially refused to stop when Davis turned on his car’s patrol lights but finally pulled over near Tuscola High School.

The driver, Timothy Shuler, had a suspended license. He later pleaded guilty to other criminal offenses. Warren was a passenger in the car. After searching the car and each man individually, the officers discovered $1,518 in cash in his wallet and socks, “folded over and bundled together consistent with narcotic sales,” the officer reported.

A baggie with Suboxone strips and a white crystalized substance — later confirmed as methamphetamine — was found tucked inside Warren’s boxers. Inside the car, there were scales and ledgers appearing to record drug sales.

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