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Defendants had previous drug ties

By LANCE MARTIN

rrspin.com

RALEIGH -Two defendants in Operation Rockfish had allegedly either robbed drug dealers or moved drugs prior to the launch of the undercover police corruption sting two years ago, and one asked for drugs to sell on her own during the operation, as indicated by federal court records.

The information comes in the form of United States Magistrate Judge James E. Gates’s May 12 order on motions regarding pretrial detention in the case.

Thirteen of the 15 charged are currently being held in custody of the government until their trial date. There are numerous motions now filed in which some of those 13 are seeking release to the custody of family members.

The latest revelation concerning prior activity comes in a portion of the motion centering on the risk factors of the defendants working with a bogus drug trafficking operation conducted by the FBI.

“With respect to the risk of danger presented by the subject defendants, the fact that the DTO (Drug Trafficking Operation) was not real tends to attenuate the danger that the subject defendants would again participate in drug-trafficking activity if released,” the court order says. “The obvious reason is that there is no DTO to which to return.”

But, Gates wrote in the motion, “A significant danger of continued drug-trafficking activity does exist with respect to (Lann) Clanton, because of his statements that he had previously engaged in robberies of drug dealers; (Ikeisha) Jacobs, because of her statements that she had been transporting drugs and drug proceeds for a real DTO for the prior three years and attempted to broker a deal for the sale of drugs by one DTO to another; and (Adrienne) Moody, because of her request to another DTO member to front her 10 kilograms of drugs to distribute herself.”

Clanton was serving as an officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections when arrested on April 30; Jacobs was employed as a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office; and Moody was a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Gates wrote the defendants as a group do present a risk of danger associated with flight.

“They have specialized law enforcement skills, including firearms skills, that could be used to facilitate flight and, in the process, present a risk of safety to others. The subject defendants also present a more generalized risk of dangerous criminal activity,” he said in the order. “As recently as within the last two weeks, they demonstrated by their conduct that they view themselves as above the law. Moreover, their conduct entailed the risk of violence. They willingly placed themselves in the position of protecting by force drug-trafficking activity, a notoriously violent enterprise. In doing so, they carried and/or associated with others who carried firearms.”

In his order, Gates reviewed information that the government presented showing the Federal Bureau of Investigation initiated the investigation in April 2013 to investigate reports of corruption within the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office.

“During the investigation, defendants were recorded transporting materials that they were told were, and were packaged as, cocaine and heroin, and drug proceeds for a large-scale drug trafficking organization in exchange for payments of money and, in two instances — Clanton and Jacobs — Rolex watches, the order says.

Gates continues, writing, “There were no real drugs or drug proceeds involved in the DTO. There were 14 separate transport operations, in addition to the operation defendants were told they were going to undertake and for which they reported to locations previously used in previous operations on the day of their arrest, 30 April 2015.”

The document shows the aggregate amount of purported drugs subject to the operations was 55 kilograms of cocaine and 60 kilograms of heroin, and the aggregate amount of purported drug proceeds $3 million.

The total payments defendants accepted for their participation in the DTO, including cash bribes, cash extorted, and Rolex watches, exceeded $200,000 in value.

Varying defendants participated in the operations, the order says, and firearms were typically carried during the operations.

“While Clanton was recruited by undercover agents posing as members of the DTO, the remaining defendants were recruited by other defendants,” Gates wrote. “The defendants understood that they were being recruited to work for the DTO because of their status as law enforcement or ties to law enforcement, and they were told to bring badges and guns to protect the drugs from law enforcement and other criminals.”

The duration of participation was also a factor in the detention ruling for 13 of those charged, Gates wrote, explaining “there was ample time for reflection and abandonment of involvement; and, perhaps most significantly, the status of the subject defendants (other than Wardie Vincent Jr. and Cory Jackson – each who had left the Northampton SO prior to the launch of the undercover operation) as law enforcement officials when participating in the DTO in violation of their special duty to uphold the law.

“Many such officials, no less, were in leadership positions: Jason Boone as a captain, (Jimmy) Pair (Jr.) as a lieutenant, and Jacobs and (Thomas Jefferson) Allen (II) as sergeants in the NCSO, and (Alphonso) Ponton as a correctional officer sergeant in the Virginia Department of Corrections. Moreover, the disregard of the law continued up until less than two weeks ago. Thus, it is a current predilection, not a remote one in the distant past.”

Wrote Gates, “Even though the drugs and drug proceeds were not real, that fact does not negate the demonstrated willingness of the subject defendants to violate the law because the record before the court shows that the subject defendants believed them to be real.”

“Moreover, particularly in light of their law enforcement backgrounds, the subject defendants knew that by participation in the DTO they were taking the risk that they would be separated from their communities, as well as their families, by extended incarceration. Yet they took that risk and now face the strong possibility of such incarceration. In this regard, they have less to lose than before. While flight from prosecution would separate them from their communities and families, separation may well occur anyway,” Gates concluded.

To date, only two of the 15 arrested on April 30 have been released from federal custody while awaiting their trial date. Crystal Pierce of Raleigh and Tosha Dailey, a former 9-1-1 dispatcher with Northampton County, were released and both were ordered into home incarceration.

The proposed arraignment and trial date for the police corruption case is scheduled for the federal court’s July 7 term.

(Lance Martin is Editor and Publisher of www.rrspin.com. This story is published with his permission.)