Judge sentences 2 men for roles in drug dealing.
One gets 3 years in prison; other 4 years on probation
Two men who were indicted as part of a violent drug trafficking ring that operated in and around Little Rock and Pine Bluff were sentenced — one to prison and one to probation — during back-toback hearings Thursday before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson.
Jahoney Malik Russell, 22, and Clansey Cole Hedrick, 35, both pleaded guilty in January to one count each of conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance. Russell was sentenced to 37 months in prison, and Hedrick was placed on four years’ probation with orders to continue substance abuse treatment and was ordered to pay a $100 fine.
Prosecutors said the two men were part of a drug trafficking ring that was responsible for moving large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and prescription pills throughout the state, with much of the illegal drugs coming from Mexican cartels. The ring was taken down in February 2019 as part of an ongoing, multiagency initiative called Operation Mad Hatter that was launched in June 2018 to target violent drug trafficking operations in Central Arkansas.
Russell and Hedrick are among 12 people, including Russell’s father, Chico Jahoney “Supreme” Russell, who were named in a 22-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in 2018.
Last month, Wilson sentenced the elder Russell to 21 years and 10 months in federal prison. Chico Russell was reputed to be the head of the drug trafficking organization.
The remaining nine defendants in the case are scheduled to go to trial before Wilson in July.
Russell’s attorney, Ronald Davis of Little Rock, arguing for a 30-month sentence, the low end of the guideline range, pointed out that his client had already spent about 13 months in pretrial detention after having his bond revoked last year. He said the circumstances of Russell’s childhood were less than ideal with his mother having spent time in prison and his father now serving a considerable sentence.
Davis said that a stabilizing influence in Russell’s life is a woman with whom he recently had a child, suggesting that would provide an incentive for him to stay out of trouble.
“He must be punished consistent with the goals and objectives of our sentencing structure,” he said. “But how much punishment is enough to deter this conduct, protect society and all the other factors this court is aware of?”
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner asked for the top-range sentence of 37 months, saying that 30 months would not address the crime or the circumstances behind it, and she voiced her belief that a brief sentence would only result in Russell continuing a life of crime.
“This case is ripe for recidivism,” she said. “The defendant is 22 years old and has eight prior convictions, … and he has essentially spent no time in prison.”
She said with no education and no prospects Russell needed the time in prison to take advantage of the educational and vocational training offered by the Bureau of Prisons.
“Right now is where he makes a decision that he’s either going to be a career offender like his father and spend the rest of his time in jail, or he’s going to do something productive with his life,” Gardner said. “But it’s a major change. He can’t just go to prison for another 12 months or something and get out with no GED or vocational training and think anything is going to change.
“To go in for another year or 15 months is not going to change the trajectory,” she continued. “We’re going to be back here on a supervised release revocation.”
Wilson also ordered Russell to complete three years of supervised release once he is released from prison.
Hedrick’s attorney, Jason Files of Little Rock, argued for his client to be placed on probation, despite what he described as Hedrick’s dismal criminal record that called for a guideline sentencing range of 33-41 months in prison.
He said Hedrick, whom he described as a longtime drug addict who by the time of his arrest was using heroin several times daily, had completed drug rehabilitation since his arrest, had held down a job doing home construction and remodeling, and had had no positive drug screens in nearly two years.
Files said Hedrick had spent over a year in custody on state charges before those charges were referred to the U.S. attorney, which, although not qualifying as time-served, had served the purpose of justice. He said Hedrick had since embarked on an aggressive substance abuse recovery program.
“Through a combination of state time, some federal time, being a patient at inpatient rehab and being under supervision for a combination of two years now, he has been punished and he has been rehabilitated,” Files said. “He’s showing he can perform, he can conquer his addictions, he can keep a job, he can do what we want a citizen to do. I think all of the factors at this point would argue for keeping him where he is. … Further incarceration would not benefit him or us.”
Gardner said the government would not object to a variance in the sentence, and she offered no recommendations.
“As you know,” Wilson told Hedrick, “you’re on eggshells and crackers. If you get out and violate, I can send you back to prison to the maximum amount of detention, and I’ll likely do that if I have to see you again — I hope I don’t.
“I’m a sensitive type person and if you violate this … and come back before me the newspaper will jump on me about being soft-headed, and I might not give anybody else a break,” he continued. “I say that a little facetiously, but I’m pleased to be able to give you probation and I’ll have my fingers crossed.”