Sentencing Continues in Mexican Mafia Drug Gang Case
Friday Evening, May 23, 2008 Two Characters
Terry Edward Folsom and Bobby Johnson, (Magoo), were sentenced this afternoon, in the continuing saga of the Mexican Mafia Drug Gang here in Northwest Georgia.
Folsom, readers may remember, was the defendant who took the stand on February 28, the first day of the third week of trial, to recount his relationship with his drug dealer, the late Phil Smith, which changed after almost a year, when Marco Cordero started showing up with Smith to demand money from Folsom.
Folsom, described by his attorney, Michael Corbin, as a “Good Old Boy”, is a career criminal and former long time meth addict, who would swap stolen guns for drugs when he did not have cash. Folsom amused those in the court room from time to time, with his quaint speech and colloquialisms. At one point during cross examination by defense attorney Bruce Kirwan, Folsom tried to articulate what it was like tweeking and crashing on meth. “You feel like a dog chasing its tail”, Folsom told the court, “but you don’t never catch it”.
This afternoon, because of his low level involvement in the overall conspiracy, and yet because of his relationship with Ricky Shaw, in the early days of the conspiracy before the two had a split and went separate ways, Folsom was able to detail critical information about Shaw, which the government had been sketchy on.
After all of the credit for Accepting Responsibility, Safety Valve and Downward Departure for Substantial Assistance, Folsom was sentenced to 33 months plus 60 months, (Mandatory Weapons Minimum).
The final defendant, Bobby Joe Johnson, also known as “Magoo” by many friends, family and co-defendants in the case, will be out in several weeks. He got extra credit for being a minor participant in the conspiracy, and added on top of credit for Safety Valve, Accepting Responsibility and Downward Departure for Substantial Assistance, was sentenced to 33 months. In fact, with credit for time served, he has less days to serve out his sentence, than it takes to process a federal prisoner OUT of the system.
Johnson will remain on Supervised Release for three years. Judge Harold L. Murphy told Johnson that he realized that Johnson became a negligent participant because of his drug addiction. Speaking to Johnson about the Federal Probation Officers, Judge Murphy told him, “They can be very kind people and very helpful people. They can also be very unpleasant people. If you violate your parole or start using drugs, you will find them to be very unpleasant”.
He also admonished Johnson that both his Probation Officer and the government was concerned about Johnson’s welfare and previous drug addiction.
In his typical good humor and keenly observant faculties, Judge Murphy told Johnson that during the trial, he was amused to learn that Johnson had driven the car for Jimmy Garner to deliver methamphetamine, because Garner did not have a drivers license. He chuckled again today remembering that the two men were okay with selling and delivering illegal drugs, but were concerned about breaking the law with regards to drivers licensing.
One final note, the United States Government picked up four more defendants during the night, with connections to this long five year Mexican Mafia Drug Gang. The four defendants arrested in Bartow County on an indictment unsealed May 8, 2008, were Jose Martinez Chavez, Esteban Pacheco Pineda, Jose Manual Reyes, and Roberto Cisneros Chavez.
Sentencing in this Mexican Mafia Drug Gang, will resume the week after next, on Monday, June 2, 2008, including that of Daniel Villenas-Reyes and Shane Rosser.
Friday, May 23, 2008 - Lunch Break
Lisa Weaver, mother to, Ray Corn and Christy Corn, was sentenced this morning, along with Timothy Watson
As throughout the week, Judge Harold L. Murphy showed mercy when and where he could, which in both of these instances, was easier to do than with others.
Lisa Weaver was considered by the government to be the least culpable and least involved in the entire Mexican Mafia conspiracy. Indeed, she was working for co-defendant Ricky Shaw as a message/order taker, occasional drug delivery person, and sometimes watched his home when he was away, all in exchange for drugs.
Judge Murphy noted that she was only involved for a few month during the summer of 2005, just prior to her arrest in August of 2005.
Weaver’s story was one of the saddest I have heard during these last months of covering this Mexican Mafia conspiracy. Weaver worked in a school cafeteria, according to her attorney, William R. Thompson, Jr., and got introduced to meth from another one of the co-conspirators. From there, she hooked up with Ricky Shaw, in order to supply her habit.
When she was arrested, according to Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers, Weaver was practically homeless, because of the severity of her habit. But she was such a low level risk, the government allowed her out on bond, and she lived in a half way house for a period of time.
Because of her intimate knowledge of Ricky Shaw’s operation, which she detailed for the government, Weaver was given much credit, dropping her Offense level from 31 to 19. Her sentence is 24 months, and because she has served little time, she will be incarcerated, but will be undergoing an intensive, 500 hour drug rehabilitation program, which Judge Murphy has allowed for most of the defendants he has sentenced this week.
Timothy Watson also received significant reduction in his Offense level, for his Substantial Assistance to the government. As with Randy Thompson and Dana Crider, Judge Murphy noted that Watson had a significantly long, legitimate work history, and was only a low level broker in the conspiracy, working for Ricky Shaw, and had no exposure to or knowledge of the larger conspiracy, as Shaw was so careful to hide his connections.
In Watson’s comments to the court, he apologized to his family and to the court, for all the “stupid things” he had done.
His attorney, Bryant G. Speed, II, told the court that from the very first time he met Watson, that Watson never asked him to get him out of prison. “He was just so angry at how stupid he was and how he had gotten himself in to this. He knows he has disappointed his family”.
While Watson has already served 33 of the 37 months he was sentenced to, Judge Murphy gave him a longer supervised release than most, to help encourage Watson to stay on the straight and narrow.
Two more sentencing hearings will take place this afternoon, beginning at 1:30pm.
Thursday Evening, May 22, 2008:
Stephen Lynn Brown, Brandy Kines, Misty McCray and Dana Crider, third tier co-conspirators in the Mexican Mafia drug gang which terrorized Polk and Floyd Counties in Georgia, and Cleburne County Alabama, were sentenced today.
Each of the four contributed significantly to the government’s case, and received much credit towards their Motion for Downward Departures, filed by the government.
Stephen Brown told the court, “I’d like to apologize to the court and to the government. I don’t get this time back. I’ve lost my kids”.
“Well, you have helped redeem yourself”, Judge Harold L. Murphy replied.
Brown, who was described as a “Magpie” by Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers, was also the first, after Randy Thompson, sentenced yesterday, to begin cooperating with the government. Although testimony by several during trial indicated that Brown specifically sought to become a drug dealer, begging his friend Misty McCray to set him up with the Mexicans, Judge Murphy noted that it was that very relationship which so benefited the government in their case.
Brown’s final Offense total, after credit for Accepting Responsibility, Safety Valve and Downward Departure for Substantial Assistance, dropped to a 26, which when combined with his Criminal History Category of 1, placed him the 63-78 months category for sentencing. Judge Murphy gave him the low end, as recommended by the government, and with time served, Brown will be out in 30 months.
Brandy Kines, fiancée to Josh Smith, who was convicted in two of the murder counts to this sprawling indictment, was also able to hammer down many specifics for the government’s case, and likewise received significant reduction in sentencing. After all was said and done, Kines received 57 months for her final Offense Category of 25, and with time served, will have just under three years left to serve. Brandy, like Tim Stroup and Randy Thompson had work histories and more than fully accepted responsibility for her involvement.
The afternoon saw an emotional hearing as almost thirty family and friends of defendant Misty McCray came to support this young woman. Misty was no doubt my favorite of all of the co-defendant witnesses which the government brought to the trial, and more than any other defendant besides Stroup and Thompson, seemed resigned to the full weight of her responsibility for her behavior.
Like Stroup, McCray has taken advantage of the educational opportunities afforded her in prison, and not only passed her GED, but has become an avid reader of classical literature. Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers noted that the United States Marshalls would apprise her of the various works McCray would be reading when she came for interviews and for the trial. Dammers told the court that she believed Moby Dick was the most recent work, and McCray, her attorney and U.S. Marshall Cooper all smiled and nodded.
There was a good deal of wrangling about which tier of the conspiracy McCray belonged on, because while she was in fear for her life and under the control of Marco Antonio Cordero, she did not seek assistance to get away the first time he was arrested, and then aided and abetted him while he eluded authorities for a short time after his escape.
However, both the defense, the prosecution and Judge Murphy noted that it was Misty McCray, by Joe Johnson’s, (Magoo), own testimony, who stopped Cordero from killing him when Cordero was beating him, thinking Johnson had stolen meth from Ricky Shaw.
In the end, McCray’s Offense level was dropped to a 25, allowing a 63-78 month range. But because McCray had carried a gun, given to her by Cordero, while they delivered drugs and collected money, McCray , like all offenders who use guns, must serve a mandatory minimum of 60 months on top of, or consecutive to any other penalty. So Judge Murphy dropped her 63 months on the first count, to 48 months, leaving a total of 108 months McCray must spend in prison. After time served, she is looking at about six more years.
McCray, however, was grateful. She told the court:
“Your Honor, I take full responsibility for the things I have done. To tell you why, I couldn’t. Meth is a poison. I am so grateful for this time I have been in prison.I have plans and dreams and goals. I want to go to school. I want to be normal. This has been very beneficial. I hate that it took this to get me here. The worst part is over. This isn’t the end. This is a beginning”.
McCray’s attorney, David Marshal, told the court,
“ This is probably one of my favorite clients of all times. I do all criminal defense work. There are very few and far between that I find any redeeming qualities in. Whenever I would call her, she would tell me, ‘David, it’s alright. My life is better’.
I think she’s going to be very selfish when she gets out, and selfish in a very positive way. I think she realizes that who someone surrounds themselves with, is who eventually defines an individual”.
Before he dismissed the court, Judge Murphy told Misty McCray that he believed and felt that the government was of the same opinion, that McCray “was rehabilitated”.
That is the first time this reporter has ever heard that in any proceeding.
The final hearing of the day saw another merciful hand dealt to Dana Crider, by Judge Murphy, However, like McCray, Crider carried a gun during her dealings for and with the Mexican Mafia. She received a downward departure to a level 25, but the gun charge carries the five year mandatory, consecutive sentence. However, Judge Murphy gave Crider a 30 month sentence on the first count, which is less than the time she has already served, which puts her into the five year final phase already.
This is significant, as she has three little girls, ages 8, 5 and 4, each of whom were sitting in court this afternoon, through both Misty McCray’s hearing as well as their mother’s. They were beautiful, and so well behaved, and as their mother left the court room, each began to cry. The oldest seemed the most grief stricken, which seems appropriate as she had been with her mother the longest, and is no doubt much closer, remembering her mother better than the other two.
It is the families, and most tragically, the children, who suffer from this epidemic- this methamphetamine cancer which threatens to consume a good deal of several generations.
Sentencing continues tomorrow for Lisa Weaver, Timothy Watson, (no relation), Terry Folsom and Bobby Joe Johnson.
Wednesday Evening, May 21, 2008 - A Long Fall From Grace, Contrition and Then Redemption
I noticed when I came home this afternoon to post the noon update, that our website was down. My wonderful guys at our webmaster got to work immediately, and thankfully, we are up and running again. Be sure to check out this morning’s story as well
I hate admitting it, but there have been times I have been moved to tears during the course of sentencing this week. I know that many of these gang members are hardened and cruel, and others made bad choices, and will have to suffer for the misery they wrought on this community. But it is still difficult to watch.
Yesterday, as I listened to Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers tell the court about how it was evident to she and the rest of the team, that Maricella Martinez had come to this country because of her husband, and had participated in the drug conspiracy, because of her husband, I was moved. Dammers told the court that it was clear that Martinez had no concept of what the laws of our country were/are with regards to drug dealing.
But still, Martinez must be held accountable for the laws of this country which she chose to come to live in. We are, after all, a nation of laws. This mother will spend about nine years in prison, and then be deported, and that was with great mercy and care which Judge Harold L. Murphy showed Martinez, at the government’s request.
I have written already about Timothy Stroup, in last night’s story, and as a mom and a grandma, I could not help but struggle to keep my emotions under check during his hearing, and afterwards as I listened to he and his mom exchange words of encouragement to each other.
This afternoon was no less emotional.
Randy Thompson used to teach school. He used to teach classes on the dangers of drug use. Yet Randy Thompson used methamphetamine, and almost immediately became hooked. He lost everything, including his health, his job, and his freedom.
But Randy Thompson’s family stood behind him, and when he realized he was going to be arrested, he immediately began cooperating with the federal authorities. He had lost much, but he had some glimmer of self respect left, and he grabbed on with his family’s help, took responsibility for his actions, and summoned the courage to become a confidential informant. He even wore a wire, recording drug transactions which were critical to several cases which the government has prosecuted in this massive Mexican Mafia Drug Gang.
Randy already knew lives had been snuffed out by the ruthlessness of the top tier of the Mexican Mafia here in Polk and Floyd County. He knew that those who had been suspected of being snitches had been brutally beaten, tortured and even murdered.
His decision to cooperate had to be a family one, because their lives would be placed in jeopardy as well.
In addition to his courage, this afternoon, Mr. Thompson’s attorney, Jesse L. Vaughn, told the court about how even before Randy Thompson turned himself in, that he made arrangements for the mother of his child to continue receiving child support payments throughout his incarceration. Vaughn said that never, in his career, had a client worried about making sure their child support obligations were planned for, and yet that Thompson had done so even before Vaughn suggested it.
Jesse Vaughn continued, “It shocked me. Randy has surprised me over and over”.
Judge Harold L. Murphy acknowledged, “It is very commendable”.
When Randy Thompson was allowed to address the court, his words were full of emotion:
“I would like to tell my family, ‘thank you’, for being here and for all of their financial support. I want to apologize to my family and to the court for the situation which has brought all of us here today”.
Clearly, Thompson’s actions even prior to his arrest, and during his incarceration so far, as well as his attorney’s and the prosecution’s team’s fondness for this defendant, made an impact on Judge Murphy. He noted that almost none of the defendants in this sixty some-odd defendant multi indictment case had even held a job, and certainly, the few who had, had only sporadic work histories, as evidence by the IRS and Social Security records on them all.
But Thompson, he noted, had worked all his life.
In sentencing, Judge Harold Murphy told the court, “ I have noticed the difference in attitude in this defendant“…“I wanted to let him know that the government has acknowledged his efforts and cooperation, so that others can see”.
Judge Murphy went on to explain that because of his work and effort, that almost 10 points were being subtracted from his Baseline Offense score of 38, for a) Accepting Responsibility, b) Safety Valve, c) and cooperation, including that of Randy Thompson’s family.
You see, Randy Thompson is co-defendant Ricky Shaw’s nephew. Shaw was the defendant in this case, whose nine year old was stealing from him and selling drugs himself. It was Shaw’s PVC pipes full of meth which were stolen, and for which the Mexican Mafia leadership in Polk County exacted retribution.
Randy Thompson and his family had to forsake loyalty to some parts of their family, and risk retribution from the Mexicans, in order to cooperate, as a family, with the government.
Randy Thompson’s score was reduced from 38 to 27, and after the time he has already served is applied to his 57 months sentence, Randy Thompson will have only 24 more months to serve.
It was a fulfilling unfolding of events to observe.
But there is more.
During the course of the trials, plea deals and sentencing hearings, so far, I have been able to observe the government for hours upon hours upon hours. I have watched GBI Special Agent J.P. Foster and FBI Special Agent Bob Meadows, and ICE Special Agent Tim Everhart, greet most defendants cordially and with respect. I have watched as in many cases, they have gone over and offered handshakes of respect and dignity to these defendants. Not all, but all of those who have finally admitted their deeds, and finally started cooperating.
I have watched they and Assistant United States Attorneys Kim Dammers and William Traynor speak with them, with such courtesy and dignity, and treat the defendants’ family members with dignity and respect as well. I have seen hugs of encouragement by the prosecution team members, given to family member of victims and defendants alike.
These men and women in law enforcement are human beings first, and officers of the law second.
Today, as I waited to talk to Randy Thompson’s attorney, I observed as Special Agent Bob Meadows took a great deal of time with Mr. Thompson’s family, explaining different aspects of what comes next, and detailing certain regulations about recovery of seized evidence. But more than that, he spoke words of acceptance and encouragement to a family who has stuck together to see their loved one through this whole ordeal.
I am proud to know every law enforcement officer I have met over the course of covering this case, from every entity which worked it for five long years. These men and women are plainly and simply heroes. And not a single one of them will take any praise or glory for themselves, but always credit someone else in the team for the successes they have all accomplished.
Sentencing continues tomorrow morning at 10:00 am, for Stephen Lynn Brown and Brandy Kines, and at 1:30 pm for Misty McCray and Dana Crider.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008 - Lunch Break
Sentencing continues today in the massive Mexican Mafia drug case, which has been prosecuted over the last year. Larry Wheeler, who has been on Supervised Release since his Plea Deal last year, and Christopher Sorrels, both received significant Downward Departures from the sentencing guidelines, because of their cooperation with the prosecution. Both immediately began cooperating when they were arrested, even before asking for an attorney.
Both provided significant statements and/or testimony in one of the several indicted cases springing from this one mega case. Both took responsibility for their actions, and both admitted that being in prison has saved their lives, allowing them to get clean from methamphetamine addiction.
Larry Wheeler will serve 43 months, and Christopher Sorrels will serve 136 months, for their parts in the Mexican Mafia’s Continuing Criminal Enterprise and Drug Conspiracy.
Sentencing will continue at 1:30 pm.
Tuesday Evening, May 20, 2008:
SIGNIFICANT DOWNWARD DEPARTURES for Significant Cooperation
“Only seven and a half more years, Momma”, Tim Stroup spoke across the lobby to his mother. As Federal Marshall’s escorted him on to the elevator, and spectators had to stand back, Stroup’s mom responded, “I am so proud of you baby”.
“I love you mom”, and the doors closed.
And well Timothy Stroup’s momma should be proud of her son. Tim Stroup, the Government’s first witness in the one and only trial which grew out of close to sixty- some odd defendants in two major indictments and several other related indictments, was a major reason the multitude of cases have been solved. Tim Stroup’s quick decisions, when counseled by his attorney Jerry Wayne Moncus, to cooperate and accept responsibility, soon after he was indicted in 2005, has lead to a rich stream of solid, reliable and multiply corroborated testimony about people, places, times and dates in this Mexican Mafia Drug Gang Conspiracy.
So significant was Stroup’s testimony, that the Government asked for a significant 5K Motion, Downward Departure, (35%), from the federal sentencing guidelines for Stroup.
But that was not the only thing influencing Judge Murphy’s decision. Since being in prison, Timothy Stroup completed his GED, and when he was tested, he received a score of 100% on many of his subjects. This led his instructor to write a letter on his behalf, explaining that Stroup had scored the highest score on the GED in the nation, for the preceding eleven years.
Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers told the court that while many attorneys with more experience and wisdom than she, had warned her about putting a felon on the stand as her first and primary witness, she and her team had been so impressed with Stroup’s honesty, forthrightness, and accuracy in his description of how the criminal enterprise worked, that they decided to take the gamble.
Judge Murphy agreed with her assessment that Stroup’s testimony laid a credible foundation for the jury to grasp and hold on to, throughout the six week plus trial.
Also reflected in Judge Murphy’s decision, was Dammers’ explanation to the court of how throughout the last three years, since the original indictment, the prosecution heard from witness after witness, who, after taking plea deals, got cold feet, for fear of retribution by the Mexican Mafia. Those held in the same prison as Stroup, would seek his guidance, counsel and encouragement, and those witnesses held on because of his leadership. Indeed, Timothy Stroup is a model to other prisoners who have made grave mistakes.
When he was allowed to address the court, he spoke in a clear, and confident voice.
“I know what I did was wrong. While I was under the influence of drugs, it doesn’t excuse what I’ve done. I’ve done my best to correct those things that I can”.
And Stroup did more than just testify in the main trial. He also provided statements, which eventually allowed the State of Alabama to get another Mexican Mafia foot soldier, Billy Sims, to confess to killing the twin brothers, William Brent Clemons, and
Louie Derek Clemons, of Polk County, Georgia. Their two bodies were discovered in shallow graves in Borden Springs, Alabama.
For those who understand the complex grid which the government uses for sentencing guidelines, taking into consideration the amount of methamphetamine Stroup confessed to possessing and distributing, (More than 15 kg), Stroup started with a Base Level of 38, and a Criminal History Level 1. He received 3 points off for accepting responsibility, bringing his total to 35. But because of his testimony in the outside cases, including the Alabama murders, the government recommended a 35% reduction in his sentence, (based on old guidelines) or, dropping the Offense Level from 35 to 29 for sentencing.
Even though Stroup’s involvement in the Criminal Enterprise was significant, and even though he used weapons in his drug trade, requiring a mandatory 5 year sentence on top of anything else, which must be served consecutively to all other time, Stroup received a reduced sentence of 138 months, or, 11.5 years. With time served, calculated from the date of his cooperation in 2005, Stroup has eight years left to serve.
Kathy York, the former wife, and long time girl friend of co-defendant Ricky Shaw, was also sentenced this afternoon. Her cooperation with the government was significant as well, and she too, received a 5K Downward Departure from the sentencing guidelines. Her statements about Ricky Shaw’s involvement pointed investigators in many right directions. Wiretaps on their phones also indicated that York was in fear for her life much of the time, from Ricky Shaw, who himself illegally monitored her activities and phone calls.
York, who started with a Base Offense Level of 32, also received 3 points off for taking responsibility and cooperating. But because her testimony was what led to Ricky Shaw’s guilty plea, saving the government extensive time and money, the government recommended a 20%, or another 2-point reduction. Judge Murphy sentenced York to 66 months, and allowed for a 33 month time served credit, which means Kathy York will get out in just under three years.
Larry Wheeler, Christopher Sorrels and Randy Thompson will be sentenced tomorrow.
Court resumes at 10:00 am.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 Lunch Break:
Sentencing continued this morning, in the Federal Drug Conspiracy Mexican Mafia case. Maricella Martinez, the wife of co-defendant and Conspiracy Leader, Daniel Villenas-Reyes, was sentenced to 108 months, for her part in the conspiracy, but will get credit for time already served, since August 2005.
Assistant United States attorney, Kim Dammers agreed with Martinez’ attorney, William E. Kelly, that Martinez was a significant cooperating witness, and that her testimony, even in the event that Josh Smith had not take a Plea Deal midway through this year’s trial, would have been enough to have connected the dots and convicted all six of the defendants this past January and February.
Judge Harold L. Murphy concurred, and allowed a Downward Departure from the Sentencing Guidelines, and Martinez will serve just over six years.
Defense Attorney Barry Lombardo was up next, making his case for Juan Duque, brother to Sammy Duque, sentenced yesterday to 20 years in the Federal system. Judge Murphy agreed with Mr. Lombardo that Juan Duque’s part in the overall conspiracy was not as significant as others he will be sentencing. He was sentenced to seventeen years, and will get credit for almost five years he has already served, bringing his total time left in the Federal Bureau of Prisons to under just over 12 years.
Agents noted after the hearing, that Duque and others who have remained silent throughout their arrest, trial and conviction, can still get reduced sentences IF they begin cooperating, under the Rule 35 of the sentencing guidelines. However, any reduction will not be as significant as if they had cooperated before their conviction and sentence.
Kathy York and Timothy Stroup will be sentenced this afternoon.
Readers may remember that Stroup was the first witness up on the stand for the Government, in January, and this reporter was quite impressed with his demeanor and testimony. Clearly, Stroup was a lynch pin in this whole, sprawling case.
Court resumes at 1:30 pm.
Monday Evening, May 19, 2008
This afternoon, three Mexican Mafia members, just three of more than sixty who have either been convicted or who have taken plea deals, were sentenced, in what will be a week long sentencing marathon at the Federal Building in Rome, this week.
Marco Antonio Cordero was sentenced to Life in Prison PLUS 60 Years for his leadership role in this gang, which not only sold drugs and weapons, but transported illegal immigrants, ran prostitution, laundered money, and kidnapped, tortured and in some cases, murdered their victims.
During this sentencing hearing, Special Agent Robert W. Meadows took the stand to recap Cordero’s exploits, as Cordero was one of two of the primary leaders of this gang during its operation.
Defense Attorney, Matt Dodge tried to persuade Judge Murphy to throw out some of the guidelines, arguing semantics with Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers, in their definitions of various guidelines wording, disputing guideline drug amounts based on credibility of witnesses, and challenging the governments depiction of Cordero’s supervisory role.
Dammers told the court that life AND mandatory minimums on top were a fitting sentence. She said that rarely in her career does she say such things about defendants, but that in Cordero’s case, as with others who will be sentenced soon, “This is a bad defendant”.
Dammers continued, “This is someone who started a whole bunch of misery in this area…he was not afraid to use a weapon when he had one…he orchestrated the beating of Joe Johnson…He operated by intimidation and fear. This is a man who used guns and used fear to intimidate members of this community. He started the steamroller of misery that rolled through this community”.
As Judge Harold L. Murphy imposed sentence, he told the court that the Life Plus 60 complied with the advisory guidelines and protected the public from this defendant, while reflecting the seriousness of the offenses, and were based on the “damage he did and the lives he destroyed”.
Defense Attorney Clay Whitaker then took his run at the court, in an attempt to get some reduction in the application of the guidelines for his client, Sammy Duque. But as Assistant United States Attorney William Traynor echoed Dammers’ earlier comments, about the economic impact and human toll this Mexican Mafia has exacted on our community, he told the court that Sammy Duque was responsible for “much misery, creating addicts driving around the county looking for something to steal”.
Sammy Duque will serve several concurrent sentences, for a total of twenty years for his part in this Drug Gang Conspiracy.
Miguel Goicochea Perez was sentenced to 108 months, or 9 years, as part of a plea deal his attorneys Bill Sparks and Jack Martin worked out with the government. Martin argued during his presentation that Perez was retarded, although they did not plead a Diminished Capacity defense in seeking relief.
Indeed, as one federal agent told me, Perez took his I.Q test on a computer, and had no problem with Computer Literacy, so they felt that the results were not accurate.
Four more sentencing’s will be held tomorrow, for a total of 18 this week. Maricella Martinez, the wife of codefendant Daniel Villenas-Reyes, Juan Duque, Sammy Duque’s brother, Kathy York and Timothy Stroup will each appear to learn their fate.
On January 14, 2008, we began covering the only trial necessary in this Mexican Mafia Drug Gang Trial, which has been one of the largest in United States history, and the largest in Georgia. The CCE was based in Polk and Floyd County, but spread across in to Alabama, and beyond. Most of the defendants ended up taking plea deals. Six stood trial together beginning on January 14, and one of them, Josh Smith, pleaded guilty after two weeks. He was sentenced earlier this month to 30 years for his part in the drug gang AND his participation in the murders of Floyd County’s T.J. Agan and Christopher Fortenberry.
The Mexican Mafia, Sur 13 and many other spins-offs are entrenched in Good Old Boy, Northwest, Georgia, and the Mexican Mafia uses rednecks as their foot soldiers. This case got so large that it had to be split in to two separate indictments, and the spin-off indictments continue like ripples in a pond, 29 in the first indictment, 24 in another, and scores since.
The Hispanic Drug Gang influence is consuming us here in Northwest, Georgia. DRUGS and DRUG GANGS, and HISPANIC DRUG GANGS are not the rosy front the Chamber of Commerce want the public to see, and so there is little detailed press coverage in this area. However, federal agents and prosecutors all over this nation are aware of this particular case, and the team which has brought it home.
I have rarely seen such team work, or sense of camaraderie, especially with so many entities working together. But the united front this team presented, from various Sheriff’s Departments, Police Departments, GBI, FBI, ICE and the two-man Assistant United States Attorney team, were a family. I believe this is one of the primary factors in their 100% conviction rate of more than 60 defendants, so far. In fact, the evidence was so overwhelming that most of these defendants have taken plea deals in drug smuggling, extortion kidnapping murder, money laundering, weapons, etc.
Members of this Team Include:
Major Tommy Shiflett, Chief of Detectives, Floyd County Police Department.
Captain Kiki Campbell, Polk County Police Department, who was recently promoted to Assistant Chief of Police, oversees the Investigative Division of the Polk County PD. We were honored to spend a day with Captain Campbell several weeks ago, and we will run a Special Feature about she and some of the members of her team, beginning this Friday.
Special Agent J.P. Foster, was/is the GBI Case Agent on this team, and will be retiring on June 1st.
Special Agent Bob Meadows was/is the FBI Case Agent.
Special Agent Tim Everhart was/is the Case Agent for I.C.E.
Kelly McClendon, Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kim Dammers and William Traynor prosecuted the scores of people.
Because of the magnitude of this five year long operation, which continues to yield fruit, because of the extraordinary team work of these men and women, and the leadership by this team, Northwest Georgia IS safer today.
To learn more about the evidence in this case, including forensic experts, check out our six weeks of trial coverage by clicking on “Archives” at the top of this page, and look for these articles under the following headings. Most articles are week long or two week long series, in reverse chronological order.
January 14, 2008 - “When Law Enforcement Is Forced to Decide”
January 24, 2008 - Rome-Federal Drug Gang Murder Trial
January 29, 2008 - Federal Drug Gang Murder Trial Week 3
February 5, 2008 - Drug Gang Trial - Week 4
February 11, 2008 - Drug Gang Trial - Week 5
February 17, 2008 - Gang Trial - Week 6
February 25, 2008 - Drug Gang Trial: 6 Weeks and a Day
January 14, 2008 - Jury Selection Begins
January 16, 2008 - Witness List Will Seem Like “Casting Call for Jerry Springer”
January 22, 2008 - Gang Murder Trial Continues: Week 2
Little Bird From the NYSE Contacts Me, RE: Bill Abbate & BLC
Sunday, May 18, 2008
For those of you keeping up with the William Abbate story, a little bird with the New York Stock Exchange sent this letter to me on Friday, re: Bill Abbate. It would appear that after checking out Bobby Lee Cook’s complaints, they NYSE CLEARED our friend Bill Abbate, within a year after Bobby Lee Cook kidnapped him and then convinced others in Georgia to file complaints against Mr. Abbate!
How funny that BLC’s supporters, and one solitary reporter, ignored this critical information all of these last few years while trying to discredit Bill Abbate, and throw off criminal suspicion from Bobby Lee Cook. NYSE Letter Clearing William Abbate - March 13, 1998
For the whole Bill Abbate saga, click on Archives at the top of this page, and choose “Feature Story”. Then find the “Continuing Criminal Enterprise That is Bobby Lee Cook” story.
So What’s Up With Bobby Lee Cook?
Friday Update: For a link to a copy of the actual Official Police Incident Report, see “Open Letter to Bobby Lee Cook and Janice Galloway”, under “Current News” in the column next to this. And if you have not seen it yet, scroll down a couple stories below here, and see the November Carlton Vines DUI Video just released by the Georgia State Patrol! These guys are self destructing as we watch.
WRCBTV Releases State Patrol Dash Cam of Carlton Vines Arrest
Chattanooga’s WRCB released the GSP Dash Cam video, which has just been released, of the November arrest of State Court Judge Carlton Vines.
Carlton Vines, who has been in rehab most of the last several months since the early morning hours last November 27/28, 2007, during which he ran in to a parked vehicle, fled the scene, and was eventually apprehended by State Troopers who witnessed him weaving all over the road.
Vines is also one of several subjects in the current and on-going GBI investigation in to the 2006 Chattooga County Election Fraud Scandal, where his opponent, Sam Finster, won in the general election, but lost to Vines when over one hundred absentee ballots appeared, many metered at the same postage meter owned by Vines’ business partner, Chattooga County attorney, Albert Palmour.
Vines plead guilty to the DUI charge, but the District Attorney’s Office nolle prose’d the other three counts, including the felony “leaving the scene of the accident” charge. I wonder what the victim of that accident thinks about this deal, especially given that this is Vines’ second DUI in five years.
Senior Judge of the State of Georgia, and former Floyd County Superior Court Judge Robert Walther, was appointed by Shepherd Howell, Administrative Judge, Seventh Judicial District, as a Temporary State Court Judge for the Lookout Judicial Circuit, specifically in the Criminal Actions in State of Georgia VS. Carlton Vines.
Walther accepted Vines’ Plea Deal last month, and sentenced Carlton Vines to 72 hours in jail, and a year’s probation. Additionally, Vines must wear an ankle monitoring device, at his expense, and pay $1,501.00 in court costs. He must also attend regular alcohol counseling during the next year, and serve 240 hours of community service. Perhaps he could volunteer in the Chattooga County Voter Registration Office.
Vines is seen staggering in the 15 minute video, and refusing field sobriety tests.