A former pharmacy technician who pleaded guilty in February to charges of theft of prescription pills and tampering with evidence was sentenced March 11 to serve three years in prison for his crimes.
Jacob West, 34, of Runyon Branch Road, Pinsonfork, had initially also faced charges including human trafficking, unlawful transaction with a minor and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor, but those charges were dismissed, according to Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Bill Slone, due to a lack of evidence.
During a sentencing hearing March 11 in Pike Circuit Court, West addressed the charges publicly for the first time, as did others on his behalf, as he attempted to have Pike Circuit Judge Eddy Coleman grant him probation or alternative sentencing instead of prison time.
West said that he wanted to express “deep remorse” for the actions he took which led to the charges.
“I believed that I was in a hopeless situation, and instead of taking the proper steps to contact authorities, I made a horrible decision,” West said. “I had reason to believe my wife’s life and my own were in danger if I did not do what I did and I was wrong. Today, I realize that. “
West said he has continued to work in several jobs since being charged, especially in the field of construction, and is working on a second degree which would put him on track toward becoming an addiction counselor.
“I believe I can channel that pain into a productive future serving others,” he said.
Stealing the pills, he said, was not a matter of feeding his addiction.
“I do not now nor have I ever had a drug problem,” he said, pointing out that, due to his job as a pharmacy technician, he was subject to regular drug tests, all of which he passed.
“I’m not a threat to become a repeat offender,” he said.
West said he has made offers to pay restitution to Food City for the pills he took.
“I’m here because I took drugs from a pharmacy,” West said, pointing out he will never again be able to work in a pharmacy.
West asked Coleman to consider alternative sentencing instead of jail time so that he could work and continue his education.
Jacob West’s mother, Tammy West, also spoke on her son’s behalf, pointing to his charitable nature and the “upright and honest life” he led prior to the incidents referenced in the charges.
In addition, she said, Jacob West and his wife have continued to attend church regularly, which has been difficult, “following Jacob’s crucifixion in the media and on social media,” and they have continued to give to their church.
“He is a hard worker, and prior to 2019, had one speeding ticket and had never broken the law,” she said. “Now he has lost his reputation, his lifelong ministry and, after working since he was 17 years of age, he has had to rethink his entire future, as to how to provide a living for himself and his wife.”
Officers with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office said in previous interviews that the investigation began after representatives from Food City contacted the sheriff’s office on Aug. 19, 2019, in regard to the theft of 5,525 pills, valued at $ 9,186, from the South Williamson Food City pharmacy. The discovery of the missing pills, officials said, resulted from an anonymous tip.
Deputies, according to the sheriff’s office, were told that West was captured on video surveillance taking some of the medication and that he had already been fired from his position prior to the deputies’ arrival.
The investigation then progressed as deputies interviewed potential witnesses, police said, and it was determined that West had been supplying pills to Kena Reed, 29, also of Pinsonfork in exchange for the nude photographs and videos.
Reed, who was initially charged and indicted along with Jacob West, was sentenced in September in federal court to serve 20 years in prison on charges of sex trafficking of a minor and producing child sexual abuse material.
Jacob West’s attorney, Ron Diddle, spoke on his client’s behalf, pointing out that the human trafficking and other charges had been dropped due to a lack of evidence.
“Jacob was also charged with some crimes that carry with them a lot of stigma from the community and, due to the fact today that we have social media, which is so quick to jump onto people when they have been charged with crimes like Jacob was charged with, “Diddle said. “I want this court to know that Jacob has suffered tremendously being charged with crimes that, ultimately, there was no evidence of.”
Slone, however, took some issue with that characterization by Diddle, pointing out that the charges were dismissed because the evidence wasn’t sufficient.
“That doesn’t mean there was no evidence,” Slone said. “And, in fact, Mr. West came into the court and pled guilty to tampering with physical evidence, which means he made evidence unavailable for investigation or prosecution. Now, we don’t know if that evidence would prove those crimes or not, but we do know and he admitted that he tampered with physical evidence.
“We certainly can prove there was contact between Mr. West and the victim of (Reed) who pled guilty in federal court and is serving quite a lengthy sentence for what she had done there, ”Slone said. “So there was contact with that victim. But again, we couldn’t move forward; we couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt. “
Over a three-month period, Slone said, Jacob West stole at least 5,000 pills, which then made their way into a community with an addiction problem.
“I think the fact that he doesn’t have a drug problem, it makes him more culpable because he had a clear mind,” Slone said. “He wasn’t feeding his own addiction. He was feeding other people’s addictions. “
Coleman agreed with Slone’s assessment in passing sentence on West.
“To be involved in that and not be addicted is not a mitigation of the circumstances – it’s the opposite,” Coleman said. “It’s a serious crime and I think that probation, conditional discharge or probation-involved alternative sentencing would diminish that crime.”
Jacob West was taken into custody and lodged in the Pike County Detention Center following the hearing.