116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Two witnesses who testified in the April trial of an Ely man — who was then convicted of robbing and killing a Marion man in 2014 — received reduced prison sentences in separate drug convictions.
The reasons for the amended prison terms for Martin Lawrence and Timothy Sprous, both of Cedar Rapids, who were convicted on separate drug charges, are in sealed court documents recently filed in U.S. District Court.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand amended Lawrence’s sentence for distributing ice methamphetamine, which he sometimes hid in stuffed animals, of 25 years to 16 years, according to court documents. Last week, U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade amended Sprous’ sentence for conspiracy to manufacture meth in 2015 of over 12 years to time served as of Thursday. He had served over six years in prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to confirm whether the reduced sentences were granted because of their testimony for the prosecution in the trial of Matthew Robbins, 48, convicted of robbing and fatally shooting James Booher, 51, May 31, 2014.
In many federal and state cases, defendants receive reduced time or plea deals in exchange for their cooperation in an investigation and testimony at trial.
One of the crucial witnesses for the prosecution in this case, Danielle Busch, 31, also charged in Booher’s robbery and death, admitted during testimony that she pleaded and agreed to cooperate and give truthful testimony in hopes of receiving a break in sentencing.
The prosecution had some physical evidence, but Booher’s body was never recovered. Robbins had burned his body in a pit at a farmhouse near Ely that Robbins rented at the time, according to testimony.
Booher was a drug dealer who sold methamphetamine to Robbins. But Robbins was angry because he believed Booher was selling him a less potent meth mixed with bath salts for the same price as better quality meth, according to testimony. Robbins, Busch and William L. Yancey, also convicted in the case, had a plan to lure Booher to the farmhouse that night to rob him of money and drugs, and Robbins fatally shot him.
Lawrence’s testimony was important to the prosecution’s case because he was Booher’s primary drug source and had seen Robbins and Booher together earlier in the evening. Lawrence also could verify that Booher asked for an ounce of meth that Robbins wanted for later that night.
Martin Lawrence, 57, and his brother, Troy Lawrence, 59, were convicted in 2015 of conspiracy to distribute ice methamphetamine, distribution of ice methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute ice methamphetamine, and witness tampering.
According to trial testimony, Martin Lawrence headed a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing pounds of ice meth in Eastern Iowa. Troy Lawrence assisted him by distributing ice meth in the Cedar Rapids area, according to testimony.
Investigators learned of the drug ring after Martin Lawrence's stepson brought an orange stuffed monkey containing meth to his elementary school for 'Dr. Seuss Week.” The stuffed monkey's leg broke open during the day and a plastic bag with ice meth fell out.
Sprous testified that Yancey told him they robbed Booher and that Robbins fatally shot him. Yancey also said the body would never be found.
Sprous admitted, during his testimony, that he signed a cooperation agreement and hoped to get a reduction in his prison time for his meth conviction.
Busch likely will receive reduced sentences on Sept. 15 for her testimony in this case. She pleaded to one count each of conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder.
She also faces up to 20 years for robbery and a mandatory 10 yeas and possibly up to life in prison on the gun conviction.
Yancey, 45, of Cedar Rapids, decided to plead guilty to robbery affecting interstate commerce and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder, just a few days after Robbins was convicted. He faces no less than 25 and up to 35 years in prison.
Defendants usually can shave some time off their guideline sentencing for pleading guilty and accepting responsibility.
Yancey’s sentencing hasn’t been set at this time.
Robbins, who already was serving time for a 2015 firearms conviction, was convicted of robbery affecting interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce, and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder.
He faces a mandatory 10 years and possibly up to life in prison.
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