A plea agreement filed this week in U.S. District Court in Knoxville puts flesh on a bare-bones, Claiborne County-based, crystal-meth indictment returned by a federal grand jury in May, according to court documents.
The indictment charges Eric L. Sharp, 38, with conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of meth and money laundering, and communicated the intent of U.S. Attorney Caryn L. Hebets to seek an enhanced punishment because Sharp has a prior felony drug-related conviction.
What’s unusual about this case is that Sharp was nearly 200 miles from Claiborne County, incarcerated at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility in Hartsville, when he played a supporting role in a 20-defendant conspiracy headed by Leonard Brown.
Like most targets in the FBI-led investigation, Sharp was fatally compromised through drug-related telephone conversations with Brown and Derrick Seals, the No. 2 defendant, according to Sharp’s plea agreement, which states he used a contraband cellphone to communicate with the pair.
“Between December of 2017 and March of 2018, during court-authorized wiretaps, (Sharp) was intercepted in wire and electronic conversations with Seals and Brown about obtaining and distributing methamphetamine and about loading money onto Green Dot (prepaid debit) cards,” the plea agreement states.
Sharp will face up to 20 years behind bars when he’s sentenced. Brown was sentenced to 189 months and will be eligible for release in December 2031. Seals was sentenced to 240 months, and could be set free as early as August 2035, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In an unrelated federal prosecution that originated in Claiborne County, Billy A. Nicely, 53, opted to forego the formality of a grand-jury plead guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm without having been indicted.
Nicely’s latest felony brush with the law occurred in December 2018 at the Frostee Freeze Drive-In in Tazewell. Tazewell Police Chief Jeremy Myers was at the eatery when he noticed Nicely’s pickup bore a Tennessee bicentennial license plate, and for reasons unapparent and unexplained “raised Chief Myers’ suspicions,” according to the plea agreement.
Myers tailed Nicely’s pickup before making a traffic stop. After learning the defendant had outstanding warrants, the police chief confiscated a loaded handgun, according to the plea agreement, which states Nicely’s prior convictions include voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and felony possession of an unspecified Schedule II drug, according to the plea agreement.