Prosecutors: Officer error led to reduced sentence in drug case

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- After more than three years of court hearings, an Ozarks businessman facing felony drug charges will spend just four months in prison thanks to a mistake by a police officer.    

That's according to prosecutors.  Lawyers for Travis Dibben argued that the undercover officer Dibben sold drugs to gave unreliable testimony in the case.  Prosecutors acknowledged Friday that the officer recorded the drug deal.  But his officer's testimony misrepresented dibben's involvement.    

Dibben's brother, who also took part in the drug deal, was sentenced to eight years in prison.
 
Prosecutors say they could've continued to pursue a harsher sentence against Dibben.  They decided against it, saying it was more important to reach a plea agreement and reinforce the integrity of the Springfield Police Department's investigation and the criminal justice system.

On Thursday, after a civil lawsuit, a judge ordered Dibben to repay the City of Springfield more than $44,000.  The money was part of a city loan program for small businesses. 

Dibben planned to open the Nine of Clubs restaurant and comedy club in the College Station development, and qualified for $95,000 from the city program.  The city had only disbursed $44,221 before Dibbens’ arrest.

The city sued Dibben after his guilty plea in February.  The city says the businessman was untruthful on his loan application because he failed to disclose previous alcohol-related criminal offenses, including a sentence that required him not to be at a business which derives a substantial percentage of its income from the sale of alcohol.  Dibben planned for the Nine of Clubs to have a liquor license.

The Springfield News-Leader reports city officials say Dibben has paid back none of the $44,221.  City officials haven't said how they plan to try to collect the $44,000.  One way might be to go after Dibben's mother, who co-signed for the city loan.