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Willie Nelson pot plea still not hashed out

Singer Nelson poses on the red carpet as he arrives to pay tribute to comedian Cosby in Washington
Singer Nelson poses on the red carpet as he arrives to pay tribute to comedian Cosby in Washington

By Elliott Blackburn

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Time's slipping away on a deal for iconic U.S. country singer Willie Nelson's misdemeanor drug charge.

County Judge Becky Dean-Walker said on Friday she wouldn't sign off on a plea deal that reduced the charge to the same as a speeding ticket.

"I'm not going to be guilty of signing something because someone is a celebrity," Dean-Walker told Reuters.

The Texan troubadour famed for hits such as "Crazy" and "Always on My Mind" ran into trouble last November when his tour bus stopped for an immigration checkpoint.

A Border Patrol agent smelled marijuana and summoned deputies. Officials first reported enough marijuana was found to charge the singer with a felony, but County Attorney C.R. Bramblett told Reuters in early June that less than two ounces were found, making it a lesser criminal offense.

Nelson agreed in June to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, pay a $500 fine and court costs of about $280.

Nelson's attorney, Joe Turner, mailed in all the paperwork after striking the deal with Bramblett and expected it to be over by the end of June, he said.

"Normally, that's a done deal," Turner told Reuters on Friday.

But Dean-Walker said she considered it a more serious offense, and would not approve the deal. She signed it, then scratched her name out when she realized it was such a small punishment, she said.

The judge said she had nothing against the singer, but that any other person in the same situation would face a tougher penalty. Nelson's case remained pending on Friday.

"Everybody should be treated the same in my court," Dean-Walker said.

Bramblett could not be reached for comment on Friday. His office said he would be unavailable until Tuesday, after the Fourth of July holiday.

Turner said the issue is now in Bramblett's hands.

It wasn't clear Friday whether Bramblett would bring the case to another court or simply let it die.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)

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