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Tennessee meth dealing women get prison time

From The Citizen Tribune/Robert Moore

Three women who played varying roles in separate cases learned that prior convictions plus a substantial quantity of drugs equals hard time in federal prison.

Amber Shore, a Claiborne County dealer, was sentenced to 262 months, nearly 22 years. Jessica Lynn James a 30-year-old Hamblen County woman, walked out of court with a 15-year sentence.

Another Morristown woman, Laura Sue Aloa Covington, 23, was sentenced to 135 months, and that represents a 75-month drop below a guidelines-range sentence.

Covington has five criminal-history points, which puts her category III and elevates her presumptive bottom-of-the-range sentence by 52 months. Covington was caught stealing a roll of yarn, a People magazine, two energy drinks and a candy bar, her attorney, Donna M. Bolton represented in the defense sentencing memorandum, The conviction means two criminal-history points.

On another occasion, she was convicted of credit-card fraud in case involving $304 – one point for the conviction and another point for a related violation of probation. Covington was assigned a fifth criminal-history point for no driver’s license and no insurance.

“Ms. Covington’s accrued criminal history pales in comparison to a defendant of this nature,” the sentencing memo states. “Just by way of example, Bernie Madoff, if he had ever been released and committed another crime, would have only three criminal-history points and be in a criminal-history category of II.”

Madoff defrauded his clients of nearly $65 billion, a quarter of Tennessee’s annual gross domestic product. Covington sold lots of meth to feed her addiction, but it doesn’t take much dope to trigger hard time.

More than 5 grams means five years. More than 50 grams, which is less than two ounces, means a minimum-mandatory 10 years, and quantity-related enhancements kick in as the amount of meth increases.

Covington took responsibility for more than 500 grams.

Shore had 16 pounds of crystal meth beneath her mobile home when she went to jail in Hamblen County. A codefendant, Joseph Gonzales, snagged the bundle “because he knew the Mexicans would be coming to get it.” Shore was also stuck with a $500,000 monetary judgment.

In the other Hamblen County-based crystal-meth prosecution, James, like Covington, received a substantial sentencing break. While 15-years is a long time, her presumptive bottom-of-the-range sentence was nearly 22 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Reeves recommended reducing James’ sentence to 210 months, and James’ court-appointed attorney indicated in the defense sentencing memorandum that he was happy to get that deal. James’ messy criminal history qualified her as a career offender, which comes with its own mammoth enhancement – in James case, 132 months before the reduction.

James was a relatively minor player in a conspiracy headed by Trinity Scott Johnson, a 39-year-old Morristown man who was sentenced to 204 months. James was primarily a drug courier for Truman Lee Smith, a codefendant who got 10 years.

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