Ex-Salt Lake City attorney and sons sentenced to jail in drug case

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SALT LAKE CITY — A former assistant Salt Lake City attorney and his adult sons accused of making a marijuana byproduct in a makeshift basement lab were sentenced to jail Friday.

James Wesley Robinson told a judge he didn't know about the lab used to make a concentrated, caramel-like marijuana byproduct called "Dab" or "Shatter."

"I overlooked some things, I tolerated some things I shouldn't have and that's on me as a parent," said 51-year-old James Robinson, who worked for the city for more than 13 years and most recently represented the police department in civil cases. He was fired after his arrest, and took a plea deal in December along with his two sons.

Lawyer Edward Brass said there's no evidence showing Robinson was producing or selling the drug, but prosecutor Andrea Martinez Griffin said it's very hard to believe he didn't know what was happening.

Judge James Blanche agreed, and sentenced him to 120 days in jail and three years' probation.

James Robinson and sons Zachary and Alexander took plea deals in the case in December. Police investigating the report of a burglary in the upper-middle-class Salt Lake City neighborhood in February 2014 found more than two pounds of marijuana, $26,000 in cash, scales, guns and a pressure cooker containing some of the byproduct, according to court documents.

Zachary Robinson, 19, told the judge he felt horrible about the potential danger the lab represented, but his lawyer said he believes the drug should be legalized.

Blanche acknowledged attitudes about marijuana are in flux, but said the drug is illegal in Utah.

"It's not my job as a judge to decide what the laws should be. It's my job to enforce the law," he said. He gave Zachary Robinson 60 days followed by three years' probation, and handed down the same sentence to his brother. Alexander Robinson, a 22-year-old chemical engineering major at the University of Utah, said he only smoked the drug and gave some to close friends.

His lawyer, Loni DeLand, said the sentence was fair, but Alexander Robinson wasn't invovled in the lab.

Martinez Griffin said labs like the one in the Robinson house remain illegal even in places where the drug isn't against the law because they can explode and hurt people and are "equivalent to a methamphetamine lab, they're very dangerous," she said.

Blanche denied the young men's requests to be allowed to complete their college finals in May before turning themselves in. He also denied their father's appeal to oversee the completion of repairs to an apartment building he owns and the purchase of another small business.

"Jail is never convenient for anyone," said Blanche, pointing to the advantages the young men had over other, often poorer, people who appear in his courtroom. "It's one of the reasons it's a punishment."

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