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Drug ring leaders receive life in prison

When most people hear of someone receiving a life sentence for a crime, they most likely expect the crime to be murder.
However, in U.S. District Court in Abingdon this month, three men involved in a crack cocaine distribution ring that operated in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee over a five-year period found out it doesn’t take murder to receive a life sentence.
According to press releases from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, two of the men, Paul Alston Vaughn Jr., 26, of Burlington, N.C. and Douglas Lee Stallworth, 38, of Bristol, Va., were sentenced to life imprisonment Tuesday on guilty pleas of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.
Earlier this month, a leader of the “large scale drug trafficking organization” also received a life sentence. He was identified as Derrick Lamont Evans, 36, of Blountville, Tenn.
Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor said that while it isn’t common for drug convictions to result in life sentences, it is possible to receive a life sentence in state court as well if the offense is not the defendant’s first.
Fleenor said he suspects the men involved in the drug trafficking ring had subsequent offenses involving drugs and “probably long, long criminal records” for them to have received life sentences.
In fact, six members of the conspiracy have been sentenced to mandatory sentences of life imprisonment based upon their prior convictions for felony drug offenses, according to the press releases.
In state court, Fleenor said, distribution of crack cocaine or any “hard drug” classified as a Schedule II, carries a sentence of from five to 40 years in prison in state court. However, once the defendant has a prior offense, the possible sentence is five years to life.
“I’ve tried a lot of drug cases in Pulaski County and the judge or jury typically stays within the five-year range on a first offense – maybe even one to two years,” Fleenor said.
Once there is a second offense, he said the sentence normally is in the area of five years.
I’ve seen several significantly higher sentences of 15 to 20 years, but I’ve never seen more than 20 years on a distribution,” Fleenor said of his experience with state courts.
He acknowledged federal courts tend to be tougher on drug cases than state courts, but state courts tend to be tougher than federal when it comes to firearms offenses.
The men sentenced in federal court were convicted of distributing 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.
Fleenor said 50 grams is a “pretty significant amount” of the drug. He noted the typical dose is in the half gram to one gram range, so the defendants could have potentially sold at least 100 doses of crack cocaine.
He noted the street value of the drug is about $100 per gram.
Asked to describe the amount of drug it would take to make a gram of crack cocaine, Fleenor said a paper clip weighs about a gram.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, in January 2007, law enforcement agents from multiple agencies began targeting a crack cocaine distribution organization operating in Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Authorities said Evans and two other men from Burlington, N.C. headed the organization.
“The drug-trafficking organization had been operating in the region since at least 2003 and was originally organized by the members of KANTSTOP RECORDS, Inc., a music production company based out of Burlington, N.C.,” a press release states.
KANTSTOP was incorporated in Tennessee in 2003, with Evans listed as president.
Evidence showed members of KANTSTOP “consistently recruited friends and associates” from the Burlington area to transport and distribute “large quantities” of crack cocaine in Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Then people from Virginia and Tennessee were “recruited to be street-level dealers of crack cocaine, drivers to transport crack cocaine into the area, and to provide houses from which cocaine could be transformed into crack cocaine and from which crack cocaine could be stored and sold.”
Authorities said Stallworth was a street level distributor of crack cocaine in Bristol and assisted Evans in establishing his drug trafficking organization in the region.
Vaughn was a “high-level distributor and lieutenant” in the transportation of at least 7.5 kilograms of cocaine into the Bristol area between 2005-2007, the press releases state.
To date, forty-nine members of the drug trafficking organization have either been found guilty or pleaded guilty to charges associated with the distribution of crack cocaine. Forty members have been sentenced to a combined total of 4,657 months imprisonment, six received life sentences and three members still are awaiting sentencing.

Drug ring leaders receive life in prison

When most people hear of someone receiving a life sentence for a crime, they most likely expect the crime to be murder.
However, in U.S. District Court in Abingdon this month, three men involved in a crack cocaine distribution ring that operated in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee over a five-year period found out it doesn’t take murder to receive a life sentence.
According to press releases from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, two of the men, Paul Alston Vaughn Jr., 26, of Burlington, N.C. and Douglas Lee Stallworth, 38, of Bristol, Va., were sentenced to life imprisonment Tuesday on guilty pleas of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.
Earlier this month, a leader of the “large scale drug trafficking organization” also received a life sentence. He was identified as Derrick Lamont Evans, 36, of Blountville, Tenn.
Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor said that while it isn’t common for drug convictions to result in life sentences, it is possible to receive a life sentence in state court as well if the offense is not the defendant’s first.
Fleenor said he suspects the men involved in the drug trafficking ring had subsequent offenses involving drugs and “probably long, long criminal records” for them to have received life sentences.
In fact, six members of the conspiracy have been sentenced to mandatory sentences of life imprisonment based upon their prior convictions for felony drug offenses, according to the press releases.
In state court, Fleenor said, distribution of crack cocaine or any “hard drug” classified as a Schedule II, carries a sentence of from five to 40 years in prison in state court. However, once the defendant has a prior offense, the possible sentence is five years to life.
“I’ve tried a lot of drug cases in Pulaski County and the judge or jury typically stays within the five-year range on a first offense – maybe even one to two years,” Fleenor said.
Once there is a second offense, he said the sentence normally is in the area of five years.
I’ve seen several significantly higher sentences of 15 to 20 years, but I’ve never seen more than 20 years on a distribution,” Fleenor said of his experience with state courts.
He acknowledged federal courts tend to be tougher on drug cases than state courts, but state courts tend to be tougher than federal when it comes to firearms offenses.
The men sentenced in federal court were convicted of distributing 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.
Fleenor said 50 grams is a “pretty significant amount” of the drug. He noted the typical dose is in the half gram to one gram range, so the defendants could have potentially sold at least 100 doses of crack cocaine.
He noted the street value of the drug is about $100 per gram.
Asked to describe the amount of drug it would take to make a gram of crack cocaine, Fleenor said a paper clip weighs about a gram.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, in January 2007, law enforcement agents from multiple agencies began targeting a crack cocaine distribution organization operating in Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Authorities said Evans and two other men from Burlington, N.C. headed the organization.
“The drug-trafficking organization had been operating in the region since at least 2003 and was originally organized by the members of KANTSTOP RECORDS, Inc., a music production company based out of Burlington, N.C.,” a press release states.
KANTSTOP was incorporated in Tennessee in 2003, with Evans listed as president.
Evidence showed members of KANTSTOP “consistently recruited friends and associates” from the Burlington area to transport and distribute “large quantities” of crack cocaine in Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Then people from Virginia and Tennessee were “recruited to be street-level dealers of crack cocaine, drivers to transport crack cocaine into the area, and to provide houses from which cocaine could be transformed into crack cocaine and from which crack cocaine could be stored and sold.”
Authorities said Stallworth was a street level distributor of crack cocaine in Bristol and assisted Evans in establishing his drug trafficking organization in the region.
Vaughn was a “high-level distributor and lieutenant” in the transportation of at least 7.5 kilograms of cocaine into the Bristol area between 2005-2007, the press releases state.
To date, forty-nine members of the drug trafficking organization have either been found guilty or pleaded guilty to charges associated with the distribution of crack cocaine. Forty members have been sentenced to a combined total of 4,657 months imprisonment, six received life sentences and three members still are awaiting sentencing.