Claiborne, Hamblen meth dealers sentenced

From The Citizen Tribune -

Claiborne County crystal-meth dealer Jeremy Bunch, a 34-year-old offender whose prior convictions – some of them minor – place him in the highest federal criminal-history category, was sentenced to 170 months behind bars on Thursday, June 11, 2020 the lowest guidelines-range sentence, according to court documents.

Bunch pleaded guilty earlier to possession with intent to deliver more than 5 grams of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm in a slam-dunk federal prosecution.

Bunch was holding 39 grams of cartel-grade crystal meth and a loaded 9mm handgun when Detective Eddie Hurley with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department stopped him in September 2019 because he knew Bunch didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Bunch has at least two prior felony convictions in Bell County, Kentucky, according to his plea agreement.

U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan disregarded a request by Bunch’s attorney, Knoxville lawyer Jonathan Moffatt, for a 30-month sentence reduction. Moffatt represented in the defense sentencing memorandum his client has battled anxiety and depression and that his evolving drug addictions are “indicative of self-medication.”

“It is clear … that Mr. Bunch was engaged in the distribution of methamphetamine,” the sentencing memo states. “This started as a way to feed his own habit that evolved into financial gain. Despite his actions, Mr. Bunch was not a large-scale drug trafficker or a major figure in the meth-distribution community … Mr. Bunch is yet another ensnared by the meth epidemic and further contributed to it.”

He will be under court supervision for five years after he’s released.

Hamblen County crystal-meth dealer Tawauna Sheron Boutwell was sentenced to 108 months in prison on Thursday. She pleaded guilty earlier to a 50-gram conspiracy.

In exchange for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors dropped a firearm charge that would have added five years to her prison term, but she didn’t get entirely clear of the firearm problem. Boutwell, 36, agreed to accept a sentencing enhancement for the firearm, as well as a sentencing enhancement for maintaining a dwelling for purpose of selling narcotics.

Defendants who plead to a 50-gram conspiracy normally face a mandatory minimum 10-year prison term, and that’s without the sentencing enhancements.

Boutwell and the lead defendant in the case, Trinidad “Jit” Balderas Jr., were holding more than 1.3 grams of meth, $24,000 in cash and nine firearms, three of which had been reported stolen, Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department narcotics investigators executed a search warrant at their White Oak Grove residence. One conspirator reported had seen 10 pounds of meth there, officials say.

Balderas was sentenced to 135 months.

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