Commonwealth Journal

November 23, 2013

Man involved in local police chase gets 35 years

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — An Ohio man who led local police officers on a high-speed pursuit in August 2012 was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison this week for federal charges connected to a wide-scale marijuana distribution ring and his assault on a West Virginia State Trooper.

Chief United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers on Monday handed down a 35-year prison sentence, with no chance of parole, on Robin Earl Slater, 51, of Ohio during a hearing in Huntington, West Virginia.

Slater in August of this year pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, possession of firearms in furtherance of a marijuana conspiracy, being a convicted felon in possession of firearms, and obstruction of justice.

The marijuana ring was discovered in a January 2012 traffic stop in which Slater attacked a West Virginia state trooper who followed Slater’s vehicle into a store parking lot after Slater committed several traffic violations. During the traffic stop, Slater, who reportedly had six firearms, nearly $25,000 cash, and drug ledgers in his car, bit the state trooper on the arm, inflicting a deep wound, and then pepper sprayed him.

Police ultimately were able to restrain Slater and arrest him.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who prosecuted the W.Va. case, said the evidence taken from Slater’s car after the Jan. 2012 incident led police to the wide-scale marijuana distribution ring.

“Mr. Slater’s attack on a state trooper was a brazen and dangerous attempt to protect his drug enterprise. We’ve seen far too many law enforcement tragedies in situations like this: Routine encounters that quickly turn violent.” Goodwin said in a press release.

Slater, who had two prior felony drug convictions related to the distribution of marijuana, wouldn’t stop there. While he was out on bond, Slater traveled to Kentucky and tried to flee from Ferguson Police Chief David Moss during a traffic stop in Pulaski County in August 2012.

Slater led Moss on a pursuit in the South Ky. 1247 area for several miles, with officers from the Burnside and Somerset police departments assisting.

It was after Slater led police officers onto Cabin Hollow Road toward Ky. 1247 when he tried to strike Pulaski County Constable Mike Wallace with his vehicle, which Moss said was moving at more than 80 mph throughout the pursuit.

Wallace managed to jump out of the way, and Moss said it was at that point he decided to use a pit maneuver to stop the chase. The maneuver was successful, and Moss said Slater’s truck came to rest against a guardrail.

Slater then hit the ground on foot and headed west into a field with officers from Burnside and deputies from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department in pursuit.

Slater was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for treatment of an apparent asthma attack, but officers with SPD were forced to apprehend him again after Slater fled from the hospital.

Several items were confiscated from Slater’s vehicle after the Ferguson pursuit, including marijuana, two loaded pistols, brass knuckles, a knife, around $6,000 in cash, numerous cell phones and other items.

Slater’s federal sentence is the longest in recent memory in a marijuana conspiracy case in the Southern District of West Virginia, according to Goodwin.

Slater pleaded guilty to distributing between 3,000 and 10,000 kilograms of marijuana through his network.  

Chambers, the federal judge handling Slater’s case, said at sentencing that Slater was a “danger to law enforcement,” and further stated that the severe sentence was, in part, to punish Slater for putting law enforcement at risk — both when he initially assaulted the West Virginia state trooper and when he fled from police in Ferguson.