For Chevez McCray, a one-time football standout at Morristown-Hamblen High School West who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crystal meth, the good news that arrived Wednesday was the same as the bad, according to court documents.
In the prosecution sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Reeves recommended the bottom-of-the-range sentence for the 35-year-old Morristown man – 262 months, or nearly 22 years.
Due to McCray’s multiple prior felony convictions, the maximum guidelines-range sentence is more than 27 years, and federal prosecutors elected not to hold McCray responsible for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, a charge that appeared to have been a cinch to prove. He accepted responsibility for distributing between 1.5 kilograms and 4.5 kilos of crystal meth.
Virtually all large-scale crystal-meth dealers prosecuted in federal court in East Tennessee plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of meth. Quantity-related and criminal history-related enhancements add months or years to the 10-year minimum-mandatory sentences.
In 17 years of adulthood, McCray amassed one short of double the number of criminal-history points required to attain the highest federal criminal-history category, according to the federal prosecutor, who indicated he believes a top-of-the-range sentence could be justified.
“He has arrests and convictions for drug trafficking, resisting arrest, possession of a handgun while under the influence, as well as numerous other crimes, and he has demonstrated a lack of respect for the law his entire life,” the sentencing memo states. “(McCray) is a career offender in every sense of the phrase.
“(A) sentence of 262 months will assure (McCray’s) incarceration until his mid-50s,” the memo further states. “He will have the opportunity to learn a trade, receive drug treatment and further his education. If those things do not occur, he will most certainly die in state or federal prison without successfully completing supervised release.”
McCray, who was targeted in a Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department investigation, is scheduled to be April 15. His supplier and codefendant, Osvaldo Sanchez, a Mexican national who lived in Jefferson City, negotiated a 151-month deal.
McCray was in possession two handguns, four ounces of crystal meth and heroin when he was arrested at a mobile home on Spangle Road in February 2018, according to his plea agreement. His one-time girlfriend and mother of his child, Ashley Wells, was indicted in a separate federal conspiracy headed by a Mexican national. She pleaded guilty, and is awaiting sentencing.
In another federal crystal-meth prosecution initiated by the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department, Atlanta-area kingpin Harry Keilholtz on Wednesday indicated he’ll plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense.
Keilholtz supplied kilograms of crystal meth to at least 10 Hamblen County dealers or users. His case has much in common with McCray’s. The Stone Mountain man will start with a presumptive 15-year sentence, but it’s highly improbable that’s where he’ll stay.
Like McCray, Keilholtz accepted responsibility for distributing more than 1.5 kilos of crystal meth, and a 2000 conviction for trafficking meth will almost certainly mean more federal prison time.
Four Hamblen County dealers – Lee alan “Fluffy” McGoldrick, Linda Greene, Beth Estes and Jason Helton – were at Keilholtz’s home when the FBI executed a search warrant in February 2016. He first agreed to implicated his Mexican suppliers, but got cold feet and spent more than two years on the run before he was arrested in Panama City, Florida last year, according to court documents.