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Defendant in Claiborne drug ring gets comparatively light sentence

From The Citizen Tribune


In a federal prosecution that’s claiming huge chunks out of the lives of Claiborne County crystal-meth dealers, Brandy Jones left a federal courtroom in Knoxville Thursday afternoon January 31, 2019 with a relative nibble, according to court documents.


U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan sentenced Jones to 21 months, an outcome that represents a double drop. First, Jones was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser offense of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 grams of methamphetamine, which cut her presumptive sentence in half to five years.


The reason for the additional 39-month sentence reduction remains unclear. Assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn L. Hebets sought and received permission to file the prosecution sentencing memo under seal. Jones’ attorney, Knoxville lawyer Francis L. Lloyd Jr., acknowledged in the defense sentencing memo the special deal existed, but offered no details.

Jones has been in custody at least since early June 2018, about eight months. Federal convicts must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they’re eligible for restricted release, which means Jones could be set free around January 2020. That’s when her two-year period of court supervision begins.


On the other end of the spectrum in the 20-defendant Claiborne County crystal-meth prosecution is Amber Shore. Shore pleaded guilty to a 50-gram conspiracy and money laundering, but her criminal history, combined with the amount of crystal meth for which she’s being held responsible – more than 4.5 kilograms – puts her bottom-of-the-range sentence at 27 years.


She’ll also be shackled with a half-million-dollar money judgment that represents the value of the crystal meth that went through her hands. Shore’s history is a tale of wreckage that’s common in federal drug prosecutions, according to Joshua D. Hedrick, her attorney.

Shore’s father left her mother when she was a baby, and an abusive stepfather took his place. Shore’s mother left her stepfather several times, “but he would track her down and bring her back,” Hedrick wrote in the defense sentencing memo.


Shore, who is 33 years old, and her mother spent several years moving throughout the region trying to stay one step ahead, according to the attorney.


As a young woman, Shore became addicted to painkillers. The addiction led to her husband, who is serving time in state prison for drug-related offenses, “He and she were both pill addicts, and their addictions encouraged one another,” Hedrick wrote.

When painkillers grew harder to obtain, Shore turned to heroin, according to her attorney.

“Like most addicts, there was no legitimate way to support her habit,” the sentencing memo states. “Her addiction required more money than she could earn at a legitimate job … Drug addicts who do not have an independent source of money have three paths to them: stealing, prostitution and drug sales. Ms. Shore fell into the third.”



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