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Disabled drug dealer gets probation

by Sheila Gardner
sgardner@recordcourier.com

A 38-year-old Gardnerville Ranchos man disabled 18 years ago in a drive-by shooting was sentenced Monday to three years probation for selling his own painkillers, a crime he said was necessary to pay bills.

District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced Erin Keith Salie to three years in prison, suspended, and ordered him to see a counselor about weaning him from narcotic pain medication.

Salie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, a felony.

He admitted selling 40 Oxycontin to a friend who turned out to be an cooperating informant for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Salie said he sold the drugs to pay rent and buy groceries for himself and his mother.

According to reports, he was disabled 18 years ago when he was shot in the back in a drive-by shooting. He said he is unable to work and lives on Social Security disability payments.

Salie’s lawyer, Derrick Lopez, said his client is ineligible for Western Regional Drug Court because he takes prescription pain medication.

That prompted Gibbons to order Salie to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and a consultation with a pain specialist to determine if he can be taken off narcotics.

“How do you explain the contradiction that he needs this medication, then he turns around and sells it?” Gibbons asked. “How did he go without pain medications?”

Lopez said Salie’s case was “vastly different” from other drug defendants because of his disability.

“It was difficult, but he did it in an effort to save his house,” Lopez said. “This isn’t somebody who went out on the street or to the high school looking to get people addicted.”

He said the buyer, formerly a family friend, approached Salie in an effort to work off her own drug sentence.

“She came to him because she was in trouble,” Lopez said.

Lopez said Salie would do whatever the court ordered.

“He doesn’t want to be in prison,” Lopez said, arguing Salie would be punished even without incarceration. “He leaves you with a felony conviction. The reality of prison is over his head. He knows if the court gives him an opportunity for probation, the keys are in his hand.”

Gibbons also asked that Salie perform community service and undergo job training if possible.

“I’d like to see more done than just saying, ‘Go on your merry way. Stay out of trouble,'” Gibbons said.

The judge said it was unlikely that Salie’s name “just came out of the air.”

“More likely, he’d been selling,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons sentenced Salie to three years in Nevada State Prison, suspended, and placed him on three years probation.

Salie is ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations including pain management and follow all recommended treatment.

“I want to see you do better with your life,” Gibbons said.

He must abstain from alcohol and controlled substance unless prescribed and produce a monthly report on the drugs he is prescribed.

Gibbons ordered a review within 60 days.