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‘Rockfish’ seven file appeals

By LANCE MARTIN

rrspin.com

RALEIGH – Seven of the 13 in pretrial custody in the Operation Rockfish police corruption case have given notice to appeal their orders of detention to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The notices of appeals filed in the federal court system spells out the reasons they are being requested. To date, the appeals court has not heard any arguments.

Those who have filed notices of appeals thus far are Ikeisha Jacobs, Jason Boone, and Curtis Boone – Northampton County Sheriff’s deputies who were fired the day following their April 30 arrests; former Windsor Police Officer Antonio Tillmon; former Northampton Deputy Cory Jackson; and Adrienne Moody and Kawon Phillips, both former correctional officers with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Several of those charged in the case have filed motions saying they are victims of a sham drug trafficking sting while the federal government maintains the defendants understood they were recruited to work for the drug trafficking organization because of their status as law enforcement officers.

The government has argued they were to bring their badges to protect the drugs from legitimate law enforcement interdiction, and they were to bring guns to protect the drugs from other criminals.

The Operation Rockfish police corruption sting contains a 54-count federal indictment that alleges 13 current and former law enforcement officers and two other individuals protected narcotics shipments and cash proceeds during transit along the East Coast for what they believed was a large-scale drug trafficking organization that was actually an undercover operation by the FBI.

Other than those listed above, others charged in the case were Lann Tjuan Clanton, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections and former Weldon police officer; Wardie Vincent Jr., formerly of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office; Jimmy Pair Jr., 48, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office; Alaina Sue Kamling, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Alphonso Ponton, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections; Thomas Jefferson Allen II, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office; Tosha Dailey, a 911 dispatch operator for Northampton County; and Crystal Pierce of Raleigh.

To date, the only two to be released from pretrial custody are Dailey and Pierce.

The FBI string operation began in November of 2013 and ended with the 15 arrests on April 30 of this year.

Earlier this month, United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker in a response opposing pretrial release of 13 of the 15 charged in the Operation Rockfish police corruption case spells out the specific number of transports as well the amount of purported drugs shipped and bribe and extortion payments received.

The response, which is contained in the federal court record of the Eastern District of North Carolina, was filed by Walker on May 29. A United States Court judge upheld a magistrate judge’s ruling to keep the 13 in the federal custody leading up to their next court date in July.

“At the detention hearings, the evidence showed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation initiated an undercover investigation in response to reports of corrupt activity by law enforcement officers,” Walker wrote in the response. “During the course of the investigation, deputy sheriffs with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, a Windsor City Police Department Officer, several correctional officers, and others were recorded transporting what they believed were narcotics and narcotics proceeds for a large-scale drug trafficking organization in exchange for bribe payments.”

Walker noted there were 14 separate transport operations, and another was to occur the day of the defendants’ arrest on April 30.

“The defendants believed the DTO to consist of real drug traffickers. At the time of their arrest, the defendants were either current officers with the NCSO (Jacobs, Jason Boone, Pair, Curtis Boone, and Allen); former officers with NCSO (Vincent and Jackson); a current police officer for the Windsor Police Department (Tillmon); or current correctional officers (Clanton, Moody, Sue-Kam-Ling, Phillips, and Ponton).”

Their actions, Walker noted, were captured on audio and video recordings and witnessed by undercover FBI special agents.

In mid May, a motion seeking the pretrial release of one of the defendants in Operation Rockfish charges the sting campaign was a sham investigation that involved no real drugs. Greenville attorney Keith A. Williams filed the motion on behalf of Cory Jackson in federal court

In the statement of facts, Williams says, “The government’s case is alleged to be a sham controlled substance investigation involving no real drugs. Cory was allegedly involved in criminal activity that existed nowhere other than the government’s imagination. The government was free to imagine any quantity of drugs, any number of overt acts, and any length of time for the purported conspiracy. Cory is alleged to be one of the victims of the government’s imagination. He is a man with a background in law enforcement whose history and characteristics gave no evidence of a predisposition to commit the crimes described in the indictment.”

(Lance Martin is Editor and Publisher of www.rrspin.com. Permission was granted to republish this story.)