An Ellis County jury convicted Italy resident Ryan Keith Mason, 41, of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver on Thursday. Mason was sentenced to 68 years in prison on Friday, Aug. 16.

Members of the Italy Police Department and investigators from the Ellis County Special Investigation Unit executed two-felony arrest warrants on Mason during a traffic stop that took place Thursday, March 22, 2012. Once law enforcement officers took Mason into custody a search warrant was executed on his residence.

At the time of his arrest Mason was living in a shed behind his motherís home. The shed was located close to Italy High School and had video cameras installed on the top of it. The cameras were hooked up to a closed circuit television system that could monitor the outside from inside of the shed.

During the search officers found a police scanner, a digital scale and $1,360 in cash in Masonís wallet. Inside Masonís pants pockets were small plastic bags that are commonly used for the distribution of drugs.

Assistant County and District Attorney Amy Nguyen said when officers were moving Mason from an Italy Police car to another vehicle for transport to the Wayne McCollum Detention Center a bag containing 13.18 grams of methamphetamine was found on the seat next to him. At the detention center Mason told the deputy that he had a pipe on his person and it was located near his crotch. The pipe was found to be wrapped in a skillet handle holder to prevent him from getting burned, Nguyen said.

Mason was charged with possessing four grams or more but less than 200 grams of methamphetamine. At the time of his arrest Mason had 12 other convictions and eight of those were for felony drug related offenses.

Jury selection was done on Tuesday with the trial concluding on Friday.

Nguyen said when Mason was arrested he was out on parole for a 2006 conviction of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, which carried a 15-year prison sentence. These prior convictions made the range of punishment 25 to 99 years/life imprisonment.

Nguyen said they asked the judge to have Masonís sentence to run consecutively, where Mason would have to serve the sentence for the 2006 conviction first before starting on the new 68-year sentence. The judge granted this request, Nguyen said. †

Nguyen and fellow Assistant County and District Attorney Ricky Sipes were the prosecutors on the case and thanked the jury for their hard work and attention in arriving at a fair verdict of guilty and appropriate punishment for the defendant.

County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson said this is the second conviction of a habitual drug dealer that has come down in the past two weeks. This conviction and sentence sends a signal that Ellis County is tough on crime and this type of activity will not be tolerated in the community, Wilson said. †

Follow Andrew on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI. Contact him at andrew.branca@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1451.