Thursday, October 18, 2007
Officer ponders question as he heads to prison
Patrick David Martin wonders if an attempted drug bust in 2003 foreshadowed the corruption scandal.
There's a question that former Henry County sheriff's Officer Patrick David Martin thinks about as he prepares for prison.
It's about a drug arrest he tried to make in late 2003, more than a year before the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and other federal agencies launched their investigation of corruption within the Henry County Sheriff's Office.
Martin was a veteran deputy, recently promoted to sergeant. He and a postal inspector were trying to bust a Henry County man named William Randall Reed, whose actions would later trigger the investigation of the sheriff's office and end Martin's law enforcement career.
Reed was buying and selling ketamine, arranging his deals online and getting some of his drugs in the mail. Martin said he'd tried to interest the DEA in Reed, but it takes a lot of ketamine to add up to much of a federal offense, and he was told to handle it himself.
Now a package of ketamine was on Reed's doorstep, and Martin and the inspector watched from a driveway down the street. Eventually, they got impatient, knocked on Reed's door and confronted him and his wife.
But Reed would not admit to knowing what was in the package, Martin said, nor would he let them inside. The attempted bust was a failure.
Reed would continue dealing drugs until March 2005, when federal authorities arrested him as they rolled up an international network that illegally distributed prescription drugs. Reed would focus attention on the sheriff's office, where several officers were his partners in drug-selling. Reed eventually pleaded guilty to racketeering in the Henry County case, and to conspiring to import and distribute controlled substances in the case related to the prescription drug network.
And as authorities turned their attention to Henry County, Martin and others who were not selling drugs would be hauled in, too. Martin drew a three-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to possessing two stolen guns, an offense he blames on lax evidence-handling rather than criminal intent.
It hasn't escaped Martin that things might be different if he had caught Reed in 2003 or been able to draw more federal attention to him then.
And Martin wonders if his attempted bust is the one described in the federal indictments that named him and 19 others last year. The indictment accuses two officers of tipping off Reed about a controlled drug delivery on Dec. 16, 2003.
Lane Perry, who was named Henry County sheriff after the corruption arrests, did not return a call asking about the 2003 case. Martin said he could not recall the name of the postal inspector, who he said transferred out of the area several years ago. Speaking by phone while traveling, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant said this week that he thinks, but could not be certain, that Martin's attempted bust was the one foiled by the tip.
And so Martin is left with his question as he gets ready to report to prison.
"I could write a book on the last two years of dealings I've had with the federal government," Martin said. "It's been something else."