Thursday, November 01, 2007
Jury hears scandal details
The testimony centered around a former sheriff's office sergeant who is facing six charges.
Trial began yesterday
- Former Sgt. Robert Keith Adams, accused of assisting and concealing cocaine distribution, encouraging a witness to make false statements and making false statements himself.
- Former Sheriff Frank Cassell, making a false statement to investigators: eight months in prison, $15,000 fine
- Former Sgt. Patrick David Martin, possessing stolen firearms: three months
- Former Deputy Bradley Scott Martin, racketeering and conspiring to distribute ketamine and steroids: 33 months, $5,000
- Former Deputy Steven Varion Preston, conspiring to distribute ketamine and steroids: 30 days
- Former Deputy Walter R. Hairston, racketeering: 30 months
- Former Deputy Cornelia Bryant Cox, making a false statement: two years' probation
- Former postal worker Kandy D. Hubbard Deshazo, making a false statement: two years' probation
- Former state probation officer Carlton Arnez Riley, attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute it: 57 months. Riley has appealed his sentence.
- Ronald Dean Trantham, racketeering and making a false statement: 30 months
- Ginger Renee Lewis, possessing ketamine with intent to distribute it: two years' probation
- Former Sgt. James Alden Vaught, a central figure in the scandal who taped conversations with other defendants and who pleaded guilty to racketeering
- Former vice officer and school resource officer David Allan King, racketeering and conspiring to distribute ketamine and steroids
- Former Maj. James Harold Keaton, possessing a stolen firearm
- Former vice officer Travis Todd Wilkins, possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number
- Wilbert Herman Brown, racketeering and making a false statement
- William Randall Reed, racketeering. Reed also will be sentenced for his involvement in selling ketamine as part of a massive online pharmacy case prosecuted in federal court in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia case triggered the Henry County arrests.
- Mark Anthony Roberson, possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. This is the same gun that Wilkins, Burton and Jonathan Roberson are charged with possessing. Mark Roberson's case was continued — or essentially frozen — during his sentencing hearing, and prosecutors said they were reconsidering it.
Charges to be dropped after a year's good behavior
- Former Deputy Jason Allen Burton, possessing a rifle with a barrel less than 16 inches long that had been modified to automatic fire capability and had an obliterated serial number
- Former Deputy Jonathan K. Roberson (nephew of Mark Roberson), possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number
The second day of the only jury trial to come out of the Henry County Sheriff's Office corruption scandal brought an account of a department learning it had a problem.
On the stand in federal court Wednesday was Lt. Kimmy Nester, once the No. 2 officer on the Henry County force and now a witness in the trial of Robert Keith Adams, a former sergeant who is facing six charges linked to assisting cocaine dealing and blocking an investigation.
Nester described how in early 2006, Henry County officers were frustrated by an increasingly chilly relationship with other police agencies. Then in April 2006, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led the arrest of Calvin Rayfield Moore, a notorious drug dealer who was caught with 33 kilograms of cocaine. The sheriff's office wasn't told until after the bust, a breach of protocol.
Soon after Moore's arrest, Nester said he got a nighttime telephone call from Capt. James Keaton, who was third in the office's chain of command. Keaton said he thought he'd found out why the DEA did not trust them.
Keaton, who also testified Wednesday and who has pleaded guilty to possessing stolen guns in the Henry County case, told Nester that Adams had relayed a story of how another officer, James Alden Vaught, might have stolen drugs during an improper search in 2001. Vaught had resigned in 2005 after federal agents spotted him at a rental house he owned just before the renter was arrested for accepting a delivery of ketamine, an animal tranquilizer sometimes used as a party drug.
According to Nester and Keaton, Adams said he'd had a tip about the 2001 incident. Adams said he asked a dispatcher and a vice officer about drug calls in that vicinity, found out there were none and decided the tip was unsubstantiated.
Then in January 2006, Vaught had contacted Adams and asked to meet him twice. After getting an OK from Keaton, Adams returned from the first encounter and told Keaton that Vaught said he had cleared up everything with the DEA, Keaton testified. Adams returned from the second meeting saying Vaught had offered him $1,000 and might have been wearing a wire.
Keaton testified he told Adams not to tell him more. He told Adams if he heard again from Vaught -- who was Keaton's college roommate at Radford University and who has pleaded guilty to racketeering -- to warn him anything he said would be reported and he should call his lawyer.
Nester said he could not believe it took months for him to learn about Adams' talks with Vaught, and that it had taken years to hear about the 2001 drug theft.
Vaught has testified that he and former Sgt. David Allan King, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiring to distribute ketamine and steroids, routinely sold drugs they had seized. In the incident Adams heard about, Vaught said he took about 112 kilograms of cocaine from a motel room near Ridgeway, then passed most of it to Moore through a man named Wilbert Herman Brown, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering.
"I felt we could have gotten on the situation years before ... possibly stopped the employment of a crooked individual," Nester said on the stand, adding, "The fair assessment is Robert should have done more."
Nester ended up contacting Virginia State Police about Vaught. What the Henry County officers did not know in early 2006 was that federal investigators had already learned about Vaught's activities. He had become an informant and recorded conversations with his one-time colleagues and others that became the basis for most of the Henry County charges. FBI agent Stan Slater testified that, after word spread that Adams thought Vaught was wired, Vaught's usefulness as an informant quickly ended and he had to be removed from the county for his own safety.
One of the accusations against Adams that began to be explored Wednesday was whether he received payoffs from Moore, who died in a car crash soon after last year's indictments.
Winona Dudley, Moore's girlfriend for 17 years before his death, testified she and Moore once were visited in a motel room by Adams and former probation officer Carlton Arnez Riley. The men had drinks with Moore, she said, and he gave Adams money, probably $50 or $100. Dudley said she asked why he was paying the officer, and Moore said he was getting information from him.
Defense attorney Terry Grimes hammered Dudley on false testimony she admitted giving in a case where Moore was charged with waving a gun out of a car window. She said she had lied then because she loved Moore, but had no reason not to tell the truth about Adams.
Riley, whose guilty plea to attempted cocaine possession with intent to distribute brought him the longest sentence yet given in the Henry County case, was back in court as a defense witness. Riley denied he met with Moore, Adams and Dudley.
But his credibility was challenged when Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant led him through a halting account of how Riley tried to buy a kilogram of cocaine from Moore, an episode that led to his conviction. Riley said he could not recall if he had previously bought kilograms of cocaine from Moore.
This prompted U.S. District Court Judge James Turk to exclaim: "If you forget about something like that, you're liable to forget about anything, aren't you?"
Wednesday's testimony came on the one-year anniversary of the indictments of 20 people connected to the sheriff's office case. Seventeen have been convicted and two have been placed in pretrial diversion agreements that may drop their charges.
Bondurant and Grimes said Adams' trial is likely to run through Friday, a day later than scheduled.