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Young Peucker may spend the rest of his life in possibly the worst prison in Texas. Courtesy of Robin Hunter.

On June 26, 2014, grand jurors in Cleburne handed down 91 indictments. One of them was for Ryan Andrew Peucker, indicted for possession of a controlled substance. Peucker’s mention was just a line on a long list that included several men dabbling in illegal horse racing and gambling on a Cleburne farm, several thefts, a couple of forgeries, and several DWIs.

A year later, Peucker, 36, was sentenced to 75 years in the state penitentiary for the 4.5 grams of methamphetamine — a two-week supply — with which he’d been caught. He’s what is called a “habitual offender.” His new home is the H.H. Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, one of the toughest prisons in Texas.

Johnson County is known for being exceedingly tough on crime when it comes to the punishment phase. Criminal activity that might not even result in an arrest in Tarrant County is frequently handled in the most severe fashion possible in Johnson. Peucker, whom Fort Worth Weekly has written about before (“Prison Bound,” Sept. 20, 2006), has been in trouble with the law for nearly half his life, but his crimes hardly seem to add up to a 75-year stint. His biggest problem seems to be getting out of his own way.

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Peucker, who grew up in Joshua and Cleburne, first ran into legal trouble in 1997, when he pawned some things a friend had stolen from his grandfather. Several teens had been involved, but since Peucker was the only one who was 18 — and therefore the only one who could legally pawn the stolen goods — he took the fall on a felony count of burglary of a habitat. He was given a 10-year sentence, which would be conditionally suspended on the successful completion of a 90-day boot camp, becoming instead a sentence of 10 years probation.

A bad back prevented him from finishing the boot camp, and he was given a 120-day work release program in lieu of that. A failed urine test during that program got him six months in the county jail waiting to be seen by a judge and then nine more months at a drug rehab program. He finished the program successfully, went back on work release, but got kicked out after he was accused of selling a small quantity of LSD to other prisoners. He did four months in the county jail — waiting to be seen by a judge — and then he was sent back to drug rehab, this time at the Jester 1 Unit in Fort Bend. Serious physical and sexual abuse at the prison was so rampant that Johnson County finally removed all of their inmates, including Peucker, from the program (“Hard Time,” May 17, 2006).

Back in work release, he was missing from his job one day when his probation officer called — his boss said he was running errands — but the probation officer nonetheless moved to have Peucker’s probation revoked. Peucker ran. After he was caught, he was given six months, and the felony became part of his permanent record. Not long after he was released, he failed another piss test, sat in the county jail for eight months, and then was sentenced to five years in the state prison. He wound up serving 14 months there before being released. He got out and stayed clean and held a job for two years before failing another piss test for pot.

His arrest didn’t go well. The officers who brought him in on the failed urine test claimed that as they were entering the police station Peucker tried to head-butt one of them. While Peucker, who had no record of violence, claimed he never attempted to head-butt anyone –– and wound up in the hospital with severe head trauma and deep bruising on his neck from the police take down after the alleged head-butt — he was charged with felony retaliation. The District Attorney, Dale Hanna, offered him two years. According to a defense attorney at the time, it was an “or else” offer. Peucker took the felony and did just about two full years for it.

In all, what started out as 10 years probation wound up being seven years in the county jail, or state prisons, most of it for failing piss tests.

When he came out in 2007, he walked a straight line for a long time. He married, stayed away from drugs, got a job in a glass factory, and was clean until 2013, when he began doing meth.

His mother, Robin Hunter, said that Peucker lived with her for part of that time. “He was working hard at his job,” she said, “and he was clean. But he’d run into friends of his from jail or kids he grew up with who were living on the street, and he’d bring them home to stay with us. And some of them were doing meth and other drugs, and Ryan just fell into it. It wasn’t the first time. He just couldn’t help himself.”

Hunter wound up losing her home to foreclosure and moved in with a friend. Ryan and his wife wound up living in a tent in a park in Cleburne for nearly nine months. And then things went sour fast.

Ryan, reports indicate, was bringing scrap metal he had collected to sell to a scrap yard near Hill Community College in downtown Cleburne in late April 2014. He ran into a friend who was being watched by police because he was suspected of having done $40,000 worth of damage to the air conditioning system of the college –– stealing copper to sell for drugs.

“The police were looking at the friend,” Hunter said, “and Ryan ran into him. They talked for a few minutes. Then Ryan left. Ryan told me he had to pee, so he went into some nearby bushes, and when he came out, there were the police.”

The officers searched Peucker’s backpack and found the 4.5 grams of methamphetamine. He was arrested, and his bond was set at $50,000, which he didn’t have and couldn’t raise, so he sat in the county jail from April 22, 2014, until his trial last June. During that time, DA Hanna offered him a plea bargain of 25 years, which Peucker turned down. Peucker’s mother said that at one point the DA offered 20 years, but Peucker still refused, sure that he’d be cleared at a trial or that he’d get less than what was being offered.

“If this was Peucker’s first case for that amount of meth,” his lawyer, Bill Mason, told the Weekly, “he would have faced a third degree felony and a sentence of two-to-10 years max. But under Texas law, if a person has two separate trips to prison, a new felony can be charged at a minimum of 25 years.”

Mason told Peucker to take the plea. In a letter to Peucker, he wrote that the indictment “accuses you of possession of a controlled substance that has been enhanced by the allegation of two prior felony convictions. This affects the habitual offender enhancement. The penalty range for a habitual offender enhancement is any sentence from a minimum of 25 years to a maximum of 99 years or life in prison.”

Hunter “begged him not to go to trial” after she read that, she said.

“He didn’t understand it. He didn’t get it, even though it was right in front of him.”

The trial lasted three days. During the punishment phase, the jury recommended 75 years.

“It blew me away when he got 75 years,” said Mason, who did not want to discuss the particulars of the case because it is being appealed.

Peucker’s new home houses roughly 4,000 men, more than half of them serving 20 years or more. Half of the inmates are doing time for murder, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and child molestation or bodily harm. No one in the prison is doing anywhere near 75 years for the types of crimes Peucker committed: selling a few stolen items to a pawnshop, attempted head-butting of an officer, and possession of 4.5 grams of meth.

Douglas Smith, a policy analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization working to find solutions to both youth and adult justice issues, said that while Coffield “is not known as an ideal unit among those in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, there are opportunities to work, take classes, and obtain vocational skills.”

Because of the mix of prisoners, however, Smith said that “it’s completely normal for someone convicted of a drug dealing offense to be housed with someone convicted of murder.

If Peucker does not win an appeal to get a new trial or to have his sentence reduced, he will not be eligible for parole for nearly 25 years. Many of the murderers and child molesters sharing space with him in Coffield will be released long before that.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely, the way to bet, is that the boy is doomed for eternity in a Texas Joint, and so it goes. More sad than just this young man’s plight, is that hundreds and hundreds of other uneducated, low-rent, hard-luck losers are locked away in deceitful, high profit, corporate owned Joints in Texas, making millions yearly for black-hearted,Tea-Bagging, greed-head investors… and so it goes. There’s nothing new to see here. When will we ever learn? Who gives a flip?

  2. The Coffield Unit is not privately run, so Benny’s comments about profits, corporations, investors, and teabaggers don’t apply. (Benny incorporates the word “teabagger” in every comment whether appropriate or not). Presumably the jury heard more evidence than the author of this article, and the jury’s sentence is in accord with the evidence.

    Peucker’s stiff sentence arose because he is a repeat offender, and it is dishonest to compare his enhanced sentence to sentences for first-time offenders.

    The Weekly’s writer Prince wrote a series of articles about the young man killed by a FWPD cop. Prince, too, based his articles largely on evidence supplied by the young man’s supporters. Terrible way to conduct journalism.

    • My stories on the young man killed by police were based largely on the statements of two eyewitnesses, neither of whom had ever met the man or the police officer involved in his shooting. They were hardly “supporters.”

    • First, let me say that I cannot imagine how anyone could cause a Tea-Bagging, black-hearted, knuckle-head to imagine they were entitled to deference….are you taking your meds? You idiots cause the worlds normal citizens, including square, greed-head Repugs, to shake their heads and spit when one of you flakes hold forth. Rotten, asinine Baggers shut this sweet country down where it could not pay it’s light bill at the White House or wounded American soldiers their pensions and your breaths stink. Another thing, the kids jury was composed of hammer-headed, half-wit Baggers, who are more common in Cleburn than fire-ants…nothing unexpected there. Stupidity, sloth, and stench are normal and expected in that wretched environment. Fool. Take your meds, shut your stupid face, get a life, say a prayer and ask for enlightenment and forgiveness, then shut your mouth. You and your half-wit buddies are disgraceful, self-satisfied, morons. Your breath stinks. You and every Bagger in Fort Worth don’t amount to a hair on that young mans butt. Normal greed-head Repugs tell me they wish you dip-sticks would drop dead, have you no shame? You any kin to that Cuban, Canadian, knuckle-headed bag of snot? Why do you hate this splendid country?

        • Ms. Billy, when you say Tea-Bagger or Tea Party you are saying black-hearted or half-wit, hurtful, harsh, and hammer-headed…ask any Repug with sense enough to tie his shoes. The truth hurts. The bright side of that truisim is that normaly, and most often, you freaks can repent and flush that stinking bile and self-satisfaction out of your blackened hearts and mind….true, really true. Give your heart to Jesus, truly he can square up the most odious, rotten, self-satisfied, hammer-headed Bagger in Texas. Repent, get on your knees and ask for forgiveness…if you are sincere and ready to accept the truth that it’s in giving that we recieve, not kicking people in the head and condemning them, you’ve got a shot at amounting to something worthwhile. You’re on my prayer list. Good luck, remember Jesus hates Bagger ass-wipes.
          God speed.

  3. Billie: The point of the article is that juries in Cleburne are harsh, and the system is set up in a way that almost encourages people to fail, and that this is an example of someone who was very good at shooting themselves in the foot until the system here could blow him up. Mr. Peucker was guilty of three crimes in his life: Selling stolen goods at a pawnshop. Attempted head-butting of an officer while handcuffed; simple possession of a small supply of meth. He pleaded guilty to the first two, and was convicted on the third, so he’s guilty. Yes. And he failed half-a-dozen urine tests for pot over the course of 10 years probation. In New York it’s unlikely you would face prosecution of any of those. In Tarrant County, you might get 2 years probation on the first one; I would be surprised if Tarrant County officers, or Fort Worth police officers would ever embarrass themselves by charging a cuffed 135 pound man in the custody of three officers with attempted head-butt; the meth charge would get diversion. So in total, instead of what he’s served and what he’s facing, even in Tarrant, just a couple of miles away from Cleburne, it’s unlikely he’d have done any more than 2 years probation and then, 15 years later, a drug diversion program for 3 months. That’s the point of the story. He was not an habitual criminal with violent tendencies, a long history of violence or anything that would add up to 75 years in most people’s minds. And I definitely lay the blame, at least some of it, on his own failure to get out of his own way. I think it’s just a sad story but one that occurs to too many people from the wrong side of the tracks who, once they get caught in the system, cannot find their way out.

  4. It’s cute how one Weekly writer pens an article; a commenter critiques it; a different Weely writer says the commenter missed the point. Happens a lot here.

    Meth is a highly addictive poison, as evidenced by Peucker’s inability to kick it. It’s fine by me that penalties for it are hatsh. If one prefers a New York jury, best mmove there. Few want to move New York here.

    So you think Cleburne juries are harder than Fort Worth juries? They’re unenlightened? Hey, they probably don’t get the Weekly there.

    Does the Weekly receive funding from a wealthy benefactor?

  5. It’s revealing how one knuckle-headed Bagger can be as assinine and childish as Ms. Louser. We don’t see a case this hopeless often here, but there you go. Baggers are going to be Baggers, what else can they be? The dizzy loser we’re dealing with here is the selected Boss-Bagger in Fort Worth, isn’t she a peach? My Repug buddy Sam, across the street, related that the fools were disappointed in her, however, what can they expect from a shiftless Bagger, I was caused to reply. He relates they are just going to suck it up. He said that she had considerable financial resources, lived in the snazzy Tanglewood, TCU area, but not unexpected, her breath stinks hopelessly of vodka.The delemma faced for the Baggers, Sam relates, is that she is a deviant, self important flake, but on the other hand, she works cheap and they demand that. That’s a big deal principal for the Bagger flakes Sam confessed, but we all know that as well. I agreed to post a request that we pray for them and I am on my knees asking the almighty to give them precisely what they have coming. PLEASE Lord, I’m on my knees here. Hello…hello?

    • Boss Hog taking over your tour here on the Weekly Blog Stouty? I didn’t believe you could be whipped in the dumass race…but there you go. My hat is off to you, clearly you’re a loser but you’re not a quiter. Cheers, don’t let the door hit you in your face.

    • It’s either dumb-ass or dumb ass or dumass… dumass. Jerk-off. Bagger. Butt-wipe, get a job, amount to something. I don’t remember so good anymore, and it’s getting worse, but I feel just fine, thank you Jesus! Why don’t you get a job and amount to something?

  6. Benny certainly has a hatred of all things he doesn’t agree with. Such hatred-slinging, name-calling, and lack of compassion for others is usually reserved for the likes of Westboro Baptist Church, and gives liberalism a bad name. But well then, bless his heart.
    But Benny, if you truly want to help the cause, think before you type. Otherwise, it’s beginning to look like you might be a wolf in sheep’s clothing…. A “bagger” on here to make liberals look bad by pretending to be one, but spewing nothing but garbage.

    Quit helping.

    • Uhh…Scott, you want my job here? Clearly, you’ve been to school, and I am certain you can do a better job here than I, but clearly, you can’t be bothered other than lineing me out? See? See anything wrong here, Slick? Beauty is as beauty does, right? Lay about liberals, more common than fire-ants. You a Unitarian?

  7. Are you telling me that after his 2nd felony that his PO didn’t mention Texas’ 3 Strike program?

    Yep, it totally sucks that he got some bad breaks early on, but part of being an adult means knowing what consequences face you in life – right or wrong.

    75 years isn’t right, fair or decent – but if you’re on your 2nd strike, don’t sleep in a park with drugs!

    • Our Texas joints are stacked full of born losers like this guy Rasta, and guys like you demand that they think and behave as a capable, square, human. The problem is he is incapable of that, and he can’t do better and one does not need much smart to figure it out. You need a heart, The butt-wipe powers running things in Cleburn don’t give a flip, and there you have it. Unlike this poor loser, who was doomed before he was born, you have one I expect. You simply don’t give a flip. Jesus talked about that, you ever read any of his stuff?

      • With that rationale, Benny, one could find compassion for Adolph Hitler. Yea, you could say Hitler was “doomed before he was born” and thereby explain away his heinous acts.

        No. Had Hitler not taken his own life, execution would have been appropriate. Jesus spoke of compassion, but he also spoke of rendering unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. That is, one owes a duty to God AND civil society. Peucker’s sentence resulted from his offense against the latter.

        • Hitler was so smart that he had a head-ache, you know that, you’re simply a knuckle-head Bagger whose breath stinks. Your Mama have any kids with a lick of decency? Why do you hate Texas? Now, for Pete’s sake the stand-up, greed-head Repugs have grown to hate you mullets. You rats shut this sweet country down so that it could not pay it’s debts or our Veterans their pensions. At long last, have you no shame? Have you no shame??? Peucker’s sentence resulted from a handful of black-hearted, self-satisfied, Tea-Bagging, half-wits in Cleburne Texas and it surprizes no one…and so it goes.

      • I do have a heart, but I have a heart for the population of law abiding and community-conforming citizens of Texas. It’s not popular, but government makes sense for the masses and not the individual. If it worked for the individual then we would not have the TSA.

        You’re right, I do demand that people think and behave as capable, square and human. It’s part of being in a civil society. If you can’t conform, then society (jury) will determine your outcome.

        Again, I don’t agree that he got 75 years. It’s hard to call that humane. To contrast, I also don’t like he had enough meth in an unsecured tent that any kid could find.

        Benny, it would be more fun to debate you if you’d stick to the issue instead of incorporating personal attacks.

        • I am convinced you are not a fool, however you are clearly a self-satisfied, Repug, black-hearted, loser and you are tickled to death to be in that rotten, stinking condition. I took A.A. meetings into jail houses for years that were stuffed to overflowing with falling down drunkards who had a kinder heart and greater ability to comprehend who was pitching and who was catching and who had a kinder heart than you and the piss-ant, Peckerwood, Cleburne, Bible-thumping, Tea-Bagging, rat-bastards. May God forgive you butt-wipes.. .Get lost. How much fun is the poor, half-wit kid having? You’re a real hero, I know Jesus is proud of you.

          • When folks think of Jesus, billie bile, Tea-Bagging half-wits are not on their mind. What’s so hard to understand here? Ease up on the vodka girl, you Baggers need to brush your teeth and Jesus has nothing to do with your black-hearted, half-wit, Bagger out-fit. Fool.

          • Benny,

            Talking with you reminds me of a quote:

            “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

          • Man oh man, Rastus, you Peckerwoods are more plentiful on here lately than fire-ants. What gives? What do ya’ll eat anyhow?

    • Part of being an adult, nit-wit, is thinking and comporting yourself as one. Dozens of killers, yearly in Texas, don’t get sentenced as severely as this retarded, kicked-around, loser since before he was born. What’s wrong with you? Did your Mama raise any decent brats with even a tea-spoon of brain matter? Part of you being an adult is playing like you have an ounce of decency and an pinch of dignity and a heart as big as a piss-ant. You Tea-Bagging dip-sticks are more slimey than the tumble-bugs in an outdoor privy in Alabama. You a foot-washing Baptist bigot too? Being an adult means being more than a black-hearted, half-wit, self-entitled, jerk-off. Our jails are teeming with folks more decent that you or anyone on your street. Drop dead, fool, butt-wipe.

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