A man accused of felony drug possession with intent to distribute marijuana pleaded guilty to one of two charges Tuesday in Albany County District Court.

Shawn T. Welsbacher, 55, admitted to one felony count of marijuana possession. Welsbacher entered the plea as part of a plea deal under which prosecutors will drop a second charge of possession with intent to deliver and recommend Welsbacher serve a split sentence, serving time in the Albany County Detention Center followed by probation.

That plea agreement is not binding. Welsbacher could find himself serving the maximum sentence of five years in prison and paying a $10,000 fine.

The court and prosecutors agreed to allow Welsbacher to enter the plea conditionally under Wyoming Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(a)(2), allowing a defendant to appeal the ruling on a specific pretrial motion and withdraw a guilty plea should the appeal prove successful.

In this case, Judge Jeffrey Donnell denied on June 7 a joint motion filed by Shawn and Mitzi Welsbacher -- who faces identical charges -- to suppress evidence in the case: 10 pounds of marijuana discovered by deputies during a Feb.13 search of the Welsbachers' residence.

The motion contended that since the affidavit supporting that search warrant was missing a signature from a magistrate, it could not be concluded that the officer who swore to the affidavit had actually been administered the oath of office, and therefore the search warrant itself was invalid.

Donnell cited case law from other states, since none existed in Wyoming, in ruling that "the failure of the magistrate here to sign the jurat does not, in and of itself, serve to invalidate the affidavit." Donnell went on to say in his ruling that "this is especially true in light of the undisputed fact that the oath was actually administered when the affiant, Deputy Huston, executed the affidavit in the presence of Magistrate O'Connell."

Welsbacher remains free on $50,000 signature bond pending sentencing. A sentencing hearing will be set pending completion of the presentence investigation report.