Conspirators who made hundreds of trips down I-20 in order to bring methamphetamine to Aiken County will all be off the roads for years.
All seven defendants indicted for their part in a long-running conspiracy to bring large quantities of methamphetamine for distribution in Aiken County have now been sentenced to prison terms.
Tammy C. Powell, Jery Lee Pitts, Julia Holly Johnson, Christopher J. Ford, Franklin J. Farrell Jr., Earnest Michael Spires and Christopher P. Van Buren have admitted their guilt and have been sentenced to between six years and five months to life in prison for their part in the five-year drug running conspiracy.
The final four members to hear their sentence were in U.S. District Court in Columbia, Thursday.
Powell, labeled as the head of the conspiracy, received a 20-year sentence earlier this year. Van Buren and Ford also were sentenced previously, having 10-year and 6 years, 5 months judgements entered.
Farrell may have hurt his chances of ever being released from prison after raising an issue that had nothing to do with his statutorily-mandated life sentence.
In a July 2010 interview, Farrell told Drug Enforcement Agency special agents that he made “hundreds and hundreds of trips to purchase ice” in the Atlanta area. Ice being a slang term for crystal methamphetamine. As a result of these trips, Farrell said he couriered approximately 100 pounds of the narcotic.
However, in court Thursday, the defendant's attorney said that this was “embellishment on his part.” Farrell said that he actually only made 135 trips and transported only 1.6 kilograms.
DEA special agents said they did not believe the statement was anything other than a serious admission.
However, even if U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour had accepted this objection, it would have no bearing on the mandatory life sentence. Seymour rejected Farrell's objection and told him that this may hurt his chances of the United States helping his sentence be reduced, if he cooperates.
In the federal court system, a defendant can have their sentence reduced if they provide “substantial assistance” to law enforcement.
“His credibility becomes an issue now,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney William K. Witherspoon.
A co-conspirator, Johnson, may be in line for such a reduction after offering assistance. Her attorney, Renae Alt-Summers, said “we are expecting one, we think it is proper because of her cooperation.”
Johnson, heavily chained and in an orange Lexington County detention center jumpsuit, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her part in the drug gang's operations. As she stood before Seymour, she said her only wish was to get home before her young children were adults.
“I just wanna be home before they are grown,” Johnson said. Her brother, Van Buren, and the father of her children, Ford, were also part of the conspiracy.
One defendant was given credit for his good work since being arrested, and a shortened sentence, but not because of specific cooperation.
For two years, Spiers has been on probation for a related offense in Georgia. During this time he has passed all drug tests and is beating his drug addiction. He has also been gainfully employed at Graniteville's Johnson Motor Company. Duncan Johnson, owner of that business, was in court Thursday to show his support for Spiers and testify to his work ethic.