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50 grams of cocaine nets year sentence

A man facing life in prison will serve a year after officers found

his cocaine in a tree outside his apartment.

Matthew French, who was born in 1988, pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon during a hearing at the Stark County Courthouse to possessing and intending to deliver 50 grams of cocaine.

If French abides by conditions set in his plea agreement, such as five years of supervised probation, he will serve one year in prison for the Class AA felony.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of felony burglary during the hearing.

Part of the plea agreement he entered stipulated he have a suspended sentence of seven years.

"What that actually means is if during your suspended time, when you're on probation, if you do not live up to the full terms and conditions -- in other words, if you violate your probation -- you can actually come back and be sentenced for up to the entire amount of each one of these charges," Judge William Herauf said.

After the hearing, Jim Hope, Stark County assistant state's attorney, said authorities received a search warrant for French's apartment after he was pulled over by police.

"Evidence arising from the stop led officers to believe that Mr. French was involved in the sale of cocaine," Hope said. "A search warrant was obtained and Mr. French's apartment was searched and the cocaine was found. It was actually found in a tree outside his apartment."

When officers searched French's residence, they also found items linking him to burglaries, said Kevin McCabe, French's attorney.

Hope said French broke into a residence on two separate occasions and stole cash and various other items, including sunglasses and a hat.

A restitution hearing will be held to determine how much French owes for stolen cash, items and damages for the burglaries, Hope said.

"He was acquainted with the guy," Hope said of the victim. "It wasn't chosen at random."

French's roommate, Nathanial Williams, is also charged with possessing and intending to deliver the cocaine.

Hope is unsure if French's guilty plea will affect that case.