Claiborne County resident Eric L. Sharp has provided an answer to the question about when getting 15 years in federal prison for selling crystal meth is a good day.
It was Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Pamela R. Reeves sentenced Sharp, 38, to 18 years behind bars, but the judge lopped off three years for time he has already served for offenses related to the crystal-meth conspiracy and money laundering that occurred during dealings with high-volume Claiborne County meth suppliers Leonard “Squeak” Brown and Derrick Seals, according to court documents.
Sharp, who was facing up to 20 years, went to jail before Brown, Seals and 18 other defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury in Knoxville in 2018. Assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn L. Hebets returned to the grand jury in 2019 and obtained indictments for Seals alone.
What’s unusual about Sharp’s case is that for at least part of the time, he was incarcerated at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility in Hartsville – nearly 200 miles away from Claiborne County – when he used a smuggled cellphone to communicate with the conspiracy leaders, according to court documents.
“Between December of 2017 and March of 2018 during court-authorized wire taps, (Sharp) was intercepted in wire and electronic conversations with Seals and Brown about obtaining and distributing methamphetamine and about loaded money onto Green Dot (prepaid debit) cards, his plea agreement states.
Reeves recommended that Sharp be incarcerated at a federal lockup in Cincinnati. Brown, 47, was sentenced to 189 months and will be eligible for release in December 2031. Seals, 40, received a 20-year sentence and will be eligible for release in August 2035, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The only case that hasn’t been adjudicated in Brown’s conspiracy is that of Joseph Gonzalez, who is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11.
In a federal crystal-meth prosecution that originated in Hamblen County, Brock Bullard, 29, on Tuesday filed a plea agreement indicating he’ll plead guilty conspiracy to distribute more than 5 grams of crystal meth and possessing a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense in a fairly common one-step-back, one-step-up deal.
Bullard, the No. 6 defendant in a seven-defendant conspiracy headed by 55-year-old James Alan Ward, was indicted for distributing more than 50 grams of meth, which typically means a 10-year minimum-mandatory federal prison term. The presumptive sentence for a 5-gram conspiracy is five years.
Defendants convicted of going armed while dealing drugs face a mandatory five years, which must be served consecutively to whatever time they get for selling drugs. That returns Bullard, 29, to a 10-year sentence.
Bullard was fatally implicated on April 9, 2019 when he was stopped by Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department narcotics investigators because they knew he didn’t have a valid driver’s license. He was holding 45 grams of crystal meth, a loaded 9mm handgun, $713 in cash and $524 in counterfeit currency, according to his plea agreement.
Ward, a self-described, cartel-affiliated dealer who accepted responsibility for distributing more than 1.5 kilograms of crytal meth, pleaded guilty to a 50-gram conspiracy on Tuesday. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on June 22.