A judge Tuesday sentenced a Fitchburg, Wis., man convicted of trafficking $11,000 worth of heroin to three years in prison.
Equon Hopkins, 32, must comply with mental health treatment during his time incarcerated and seven years on extended supervision under the sentence handed down by La Crosse County Circuit Judge Elliott Levine.
“You have issues that need to be addressed that are intensive,” Levine said.
A La Crosse County sheriff’s deputy found Hopkins with heroin and marijuana on July 15, 2011, after stopping a car for a damaged license plate and a faulty taillight on Interstate 90, according to court records.
A passenger in the car told the deputy Hopkins tried to get her to hide the drugs in her body just before they were stopped, the complaint states.
Hopkins pleaded guilty to a felony charge of possession with intent to deliver heroin. Another drug charge was dismissed but considered by the court at sentencing.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Minser called for a five-year prison sentence, noting Hopkins’ criminal record involves 10 convictions and failed attempts on community supervision.
“We haven’t seen any indication that this defendant will change,” he said.
Hopkins fled to Indiana while on bond before he was arrested again in La Crosse. He continues to deny involvement in the case and is a danger to the community, Minser said.
“The defendant is no small dealer,” he said. “It only takes a small amount of heroin to create tragic consequences.”
Hopkins told the judge he’s the product of abusive and drug-addicted parents. His mother was almost killed over a drug debt.
“I grew up too fast,” he said.
Hopkins struggled for years with undiagnosed mental illnesses and no treatment for those that were, he said. He turned to drugs to self-medicate and warned he could relapse without medication and treatment.
“I don’t feel prison will help me. It will only be counterproductive,” he said.
Defense attorney Francis Rivard argued his client needs the mental health treatment offered in the community, noting he might not receive any if imprisoned.
Rivard asked for a stayed prison sentence so Hopkins could continue mental health treatment. He noted his client already has served a year in the county jail, which “is enough of a punishment.” Hopkins also plans to return to college to obtain a degree that’s only 29 credits away.
“This is a case where rehabilitation as opposed to punishment is the better route to go,” Rivard said. “Without the treatment, Mr. Hopkins is at a much much higher risk to recidivate.”