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Leader in 'Delta Blues' drug case gets 40 years

by Gavin Lesnick | April 18, 2012 at 1:48 p.m. | Updated April 18, 2012 at 3:23 p.m.

— One of the leaders of a large drug ring in eastern Arkansas broken up last year by a sweeping federal investigation has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Sedrick Trice, 28, acknowledged in an earlier guilty plea that he was a top-level drug trafficker. He was indicted along with dozens of others in Operation Delta Blues, a massive investigation into drug-dealing and corruption in eastern Arkansas.

Trice, the first defendant in the case to plead guilty, oversaw an operation that distributed large amounts of cocaine and marijuana in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, authorities have said.

An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation found Trice should have been in prison after a 2007 probation revocation that drew a 20-year sentence.

In a Dec. 21, 2011 hearing in the Delta Blues case, Trice pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking in exchange for 14 other charges being dropped and a recommended 40-year sentence.

On Wednesday, Trice spoke only briefly to answer Moody's questions and declined an opportunity to address the court. Instead, his attorney, Lisa Peters, spoke on his behalf.

She noted it is rare for a defendant to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence so lengthy, but acknowledged it was "as reasonable a sentence as I could negotiate considering the evidence and the circumstances."

Peters said Trice "insisted" on admitting his crimes.

"He has stood up and taken responsibility," she said. "For that, I applaud him."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters spoke next, telling Moody that Trice's crimes had a significant impact on Helena-West Helena and the surrounding community.

"He has accepted responsibility," she said, "but it's for a very serious crime."

The 40-year sentence will run concurrently with the 20-year sentence from 2007, U.S. District Judge James Moody said.

Seventy-one people were indicted in the 'Delta Blues' operation, including five police officers.

Another 'Delta Blues' defendant, Dempsey Word, was sentenced shortly after Trice to 200 months in prison.

Word in January pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver in exchange for two other counts being dropped. He acknowledged then that he purchased large quantities of drugs from two of the operation's leaders, including Trice, and then distributed them to others.

Word, 39, apologized to the court in a brief statement and his mother made a tearful plea for leniency, telling Moody she was a drug addict who wasn't there for him as a child.

"I never did give him a chance to prove he could be the man I know he can be," she said through heavy tears.

Moody ultimately rejected an argument that Word should not qualify as a career offender, a status which increases the suggested federal range of prison terms, and sentenced him to 200 months.

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