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Ohio drug dealer who bit WV State Trooper during 2012 traffic stop loses appeal of 35-year prison sentence

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An Ohio man with a criminal record, six loaded guns, thousands of dollars in cash and detailed drug ledgers in his possession when he bit a state trooper in the arm during a traffic stop in St. Albans, West Virginia, in 2012 couldn’t convince the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals his 35-year prison sentence was a mistake.

Robin Earl Slater, 52, of Langsville, Ohio, had pleaded guilty in August in U.S. District Court in Huntington to conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, possession of firearms by a felon and obstruction of justice. U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers sentenced Slater to 520 months -- 35 years -- in prison.

The charges stem from a January 2012 traffic stop in St. Albans.

Authorities said a West Virginia State Police trooper who’d witnessed Slater committing several traffic violations followed him to a store parking lot, where the trooper attempted to question Slater. They scuffled, and Slater fled after biting and pepper-spraying the officer.

Slater, who had two prior felony convictions on his record, was taken into custody a short time later with the six loaded guns in his possession as well as nearly $25,000 in cash from his drug dealings and a ledger detailing his drug trafficking activities.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Slater had conspired to distribute between 3,000 and 10,000 kilograms of marijuana by supplying the drug to lower-level dealers in Putnam and Kanawha counties, as well as out of state.

At his plea hearing, Slater told the judge the money that was seized was from individuals to whom he had supplied marijuana and that the guns were intended to protect him and the proceeds of his drug activity.

But Slater also had two loaded guns in his possession in August 2012 when police in Pulaski County, Kentucky, tried to pull him over for an expired plates violation. Slater tried to get away, leading police on a near hour-long high-speed chase through the county that ended with his car disabled and Slater on foot. That time, police said he had marijuana, two loaded pistols, brass knuckles, a knife, around $6,000 in cash and multiple cell phones in his possession.

Slater exhibited asthma-like symptoms after the foot chase, so he was taken to a local hospital for treatment. The following day he fled the hospital, naked and on foot, but was soon recaptured.

Because of Slater’s arrest record -- he had prior felony drug convictions in Kentland, Indiana, in 1986 for possession with intent to deliver, and in Athens County, Ohio, in 1988 for aiding and abetting marijuana trafficking -- he was precluded from possessing guns.

At sentencing, Chambers described Slater as a “danger to law enforcement” and said the severity of his prison sentence was intended, in part, to punish Slater for putting law enforcement at risk -- both when he initially assaulted the state trooper and again when he fled from police at high speeds in Kentucky.

In his appeal, Slater challenged the district court’s sentencing calculations, but the appellate court cited legal precedent that, since no drugs were seized, the government “need only establish the amount of drugs involved by a preponderance of the evidence.”

“The court reasonably estimated the amount of drugs attributable to Slater over the course of the conspiracy and correctly enhanced the offense level for the firearm offense for Slater’s possession of eight firearms,” the appellate judges noted.