Public Safety

Judge sentences Cedar Rapids man with 68 previous convictions to 19 years in prison

Benjamin McCauley 'set record' for criminal history, she noted

CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge said Benjamin McCauley, recently convicted for distributing synthetic drugs, may have “set a record in my courtroom” for having the most criminal history points on his 68 convictions.

U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade sentenced Benjamin McCauley to 19 years in federal prison. She went above the guideline sentencing based on his previous criminal history, which includes drugs, assaults, domestic violence, eluding, thefts, drunken driving, harassment, forgery and escape. Reade noted he was first convicted at age 15 with assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, and he has continued a history of not respecting the law and committed the same offense — domestic abuse — over and over again.

McCauley, 45, pleaded guilty in December to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances — synthetic cannabinoids, commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana on March 12, 2015. McCauley, during that hearing, admitted he was in possession of three synthetic drugs and they he knew they were illegal controlled substances.

He also admitted that he intended to sell the drugs.

In March 2015, officers conducted a search of McCauley’s home and seized over 240 grams of synthetic cannabinoids in product packaging labeled “Buddah Shack,” “Joker,” and “Get Real,” according to court documents.

McCauley, when charged in federal court, was already serving a 12-year state prison sentence for Linn County District Court convictions of burglary, probation revocations for stalking and another burglary and eluding.

Court records show McCauley committed the burglaries in 2015 and 2016 and also stalked an ex-girlfriend in 2015. McCauley stalked the woman from Nov. 11, 2014, through July 16, 2015, and threatened her with verbal and written threats, according to a criminal complaint.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham, in his sentencing document, pointed out that McCauley began selling synthetic cannabinoids by at least 2014. His brother, Matthew McCauley, was also prosecuted in federal court for similar crimes in 2014. Matthew McCauley owned and operated the Fragrance Hut, which sold synthetic drugs before being closed when he was arrested on federal drug charges.

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McCauley knew about his brother’s online suppliers, and attempted to pick up his business, Chatham said. Due to his brother’s federal prosecution, those suppliers refused to sell to him. To avoid those restrictions, McCauley used an associate’s name to purchase synthetic products from those suppliers.

Chatham said McCauley in 2014 and 2015 recruited others to distribute the drugs and make the drugs for him, including people in the “free lunch” line and homeless people in Iowa City.

David Eastman, McCauley’s lawyer, said that some of his convictions were minor and the domestic abuse charges involved the woman who still supports him today and who he plans to marry. He also cited mental health issues for McCauley’s criminal behavior, adding McCauley had the “basics within him to do good things.”

McCauley told the judge he wanted to apologize to the people he hurt, blaming his drug addiction for his actions. He promised to work on his addiction and said he realized his behavior has to change.

He also said he hopes to have forgiveness someday.

Reade said his mental health or substance abuse issues didn’t warrant less prison time. She added that McCauley had been through 27 substance abuse programs with little or no success.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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