ROGERSVILLE — When Sheriff Ronnie Lawson took office as the Hawkins County Sheriff, he declared a war on drugs.
Sheriff Lawson developed a narcotics unit consisting of five investigative officers and one K-9 officer.
In 2016, Lawson’s narcotics unit discovered a large drug trafficking organization that was operating in the county that was responsible for distributing kilograms of methamphetamine within Hawkins County.
Being designated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a high intensity drug trafficking area, Lawson partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Rocky Top HIDTA Task Force to assist with tackling the drug issues.
“This partnership allows us to prosecute not only the local dealers, but also go after those individuals from out of state that are responsible for supplying the local dealers,” the sheriff said.
The investigation lasted from 2016 to mid-2018. During that time, officers determined that David Jones (Georgia) was suppling multiple local dealers in Hawkins County. Officers were able to intercept and seize kilograms of methamphetamine that were destined to be distributed within the county.
That investigation resulted in a 49-count indictment in US District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Some of the individuals were also charged with federal weapon violations.
Those individuals charged included: James Dwayne Byington of Rogersville; Edward Smith of Rogersville; Frankie Benton of Bulls Gap; Clay Seals, Jr. of Surgoinsville; Curtis Carpenter of Whitesburg; David Jones of Chatsworth, Georgia; Jonathan Delph of Rogersville; Stephanie Bailey of Hawkins County; Donna Strong of Surgoinsville; Jerry Robinette of Rogersville; Tyler Delph of Rogersville; Scottie Delph of Rogersville; James Michael Whitaker of Rogersville; Paul Bledsoe of Morristown; William West of Rogersville; Leonard Brad Eidson of Bulls Gap; Phillip Burton of Rogersville; and Toby Jones of Chatsworth, Georgia.
Those convicted received an average sentence between 120-210 months in federal prison.
Shortly after concluding that investigation, officers discovered a second drug trafficking ring that was also operating in Hawkins County. As a result, a 38-count indictment was issued out of US District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, on June 12, 2018.
This investigation revealed that Leonard Mullinax (South Carolina) was distributing methamphetamine to local dealers that would in turn distribute it within Hawkins County, Lawson said.
“This second investigation resulted in individuals being charged with conspiracy to distribute 50 or more grams of methamphetamine,” the Sheriff added. “Some of the individuals were also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.”
Those individuals charged included: Leonard Wayne Mullinax of Gaffney, SC; Jamie Nicole Wilson of Surgoinsville; Edward Ray Walters of Surgoinsville; Michael James Walters of Church Hill; Corey Aaron Morelock of Surgoinsville; Amber Lynn Hall of Surgoinsville; Matthew Glenn Russell of Rogersville; Christopher Lee Pyles of Rogersville; Destiny Lashay Lawson of Rogersville; Megan Rose Moore of Rogersville; Matthew Jacob Keirsey of Rogersville; Jason Ronald Burchfield of Rogersville; Beverly Ann Brooks of Surgoinsville; Jimmy Lee Gray of Surgoinsville; Jacob Donald Meyers of Church Hill; and Jeannie Michelle Bowman of Surgoinsville.
Each individual faced up to 120 months minimum mandatory prison sentence if convicted.
Within a few short months, the narcotics unit had discovered a third drug trafficking organization that continued to distribute methamphetamine within and around Hawkins County. This investigation revealed that Charlie Fisher (Georgia), Andreanna Phillips (Alabama), and Hunter Cole (Georgia) was responsible for distributing methamphetamine to individuals in Hawkins County.
As a result, a 19-count indictment was issued in US District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee on May 14, 2019, charging 14 individuals with Conspiracy to Distribute 50 or more grams of methamphetamine.
Those individuals charged included: Jeremy Wayne Mowell of Rogersville; Robert Edmonds, Jr. of Morristown; Charlie Fisher of Carrollton, Georgia; Andreanna Kimberly Phillips of Alabama; Hunter Steven Cole of Temple, Georgia; Dana Henderson of Pikeville; Dustin Lee Morgan of Russellville; Karalyne Elizabeth Thompson of Rogersville; Danny Dale Morgan of Rogersville; Whitney Nicole Clark of Rogersville; Jeremy Chad Wilder of Rogersville; Danny Ray Bledsoe of Rogersville; Stephanie Linsey Hamblen of Rogersville; and Rachel Suzzanne West of Rogersville.
Each individual faces of the 120-month minimum mandatory prison time if convicted.
All of the high level investigations have resulted in hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine being taken off the streets, Lawson said.
In addition to the above individuals charged, the Sheriff’s Office has logged more than 503 narcotics related charges being placed against individuals from July 1, 2018 until July 1, 2019. There are numerous other on-going investigations related to narcotics distribution that shall result in indictments being issued at a later date.
These investigations, Lawson said, are complex and require multiple agencies to make them successful. These on-going investigations leading to these indictments are the product of a partnership between Hawkins Co. Sheriff’s Office, Third Judicial District Drug Task Force, Hamblen Co. Sheriff’s Department, Jefferson Co. Sheriff’s Department, Cherokee Co. Sheriff’s Department, Morristown Police Department, Third Judicial District Attorney General’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, FBI Rocky Top HIDTA Task Force, US Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive, US Postal Inspectors, and the US Attorney’s Office.