Two men who pleaded guilty last year to being involved in a drug trafficking ring in and around Cross County were sentenced this week in federal court.
Elliot D. Davis, 41, of Parkin pleaded guilty in November to the drug conspiracy count before U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr., admitting to having sold 2 ounces methamphetamine to a confidential source for Termaine Slaughter, the reputed head of the conspiracy. At Davis' court appearance Tuesday he was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
Montana Smith, 45, of Parkin, was sentenced Wednesday to five years of probation for misprision of a felony -- failure to report a crime. Smith pleaded guilty to the charge in November.
Davis pleaded guilty Nov. 19 to selling at least 35 grams but less than 50 grams of methamphetamine to a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to the court records, the confidential source arranged with Slaughter to buy 2 ounces of methamphetamine for $1,800 on March 7, 2017. The records showed that after a brief meeting, Slaughter later called the confidential source and directed the person to meet someone who federal investigators said was Davis at the Sav-A-Lot in Forrest City. Authorities said Davis provided the 2 ounces of methamphetamine to the confidential source in exchange for the $1,800.
Court records indicated that Slaughter entered a plea of guilty on Nov. 18, admitting that he had been responsible for the distribution of between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine from January 2015 to March 2018 in and around Cross County, and to laundering the proceeds through bank transactions designed to hide the source of drug revenue from authorities. He has not yet been sentenced in the matter.
Court records said Slaughter and various co-conspirators, including Davis, obtained methamphetamine from Texas and California, and sold it in Arkansas, laundering the proceeds through a legitimate trucking company using various accounts and making cash deposits in bank branches in Arkansas and Tennessee.
According to court records, in 2016, Smith traveled on the Megabus from Memphis to Dallas with Joshua Mitchell -- an associate of Slaughter's who was convicted in a related case and sentenced to five years in prison -- to obtain methamphetamine, which was transported back to Memphis then to Davis' Parkin residence for storage and further distribution.
In 2018, records said, Smith traveled to California with Slaughter to purchase methamphetamine that was then mailed or flown back to Arkansas. On those occasions, prosecutors said Smith had knowledge of the illegal activities but failed to report them.
The court records said some of the proceeds were used to purchase over-the-road trucks for the business and personal vehicles, and that cash deposits made in Memphis were withdrawn in California to pay for methamphetamine.
Davis' attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler of North Little Rock, argued for the minimum guideline sentence of 51 months in prison, pointing out her client's lack of criminal history, his family ties, work history and no issues while free on pretrial release.
"We're just asking that you give him the lower end of the guidelines," Fowler said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Jegley concurred, saying that Davis' lack of felony convictions merited consideration in sentencing.
Jegley did object, however, to Moody's ruling that Davis could self-report to the federal Bureau of Prisons once he is designated, but she was overruled.
Davis, given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf, gave a brief statement directed to his wife.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I know I messed up, and I just have to deal with the consequences."
Smith's attorney, Jordan Tinsley, argued forcefully for more than 40 minutes for Moody to put his client on probation, even pointing out that if he did so, Smith would be under federal supervision for five years, which would be at least three years longer than he would be supervised if he were sent to prison. The maximum sentence for misprision of a felony under federal statutes is three years but based upon Smith's presentence report, the guideline sentence for his offense would be 15-21 months and one year of supervised release.
Tinsley argued that Smith, who has an IQ of 72 and suffers from anxiety and PTSD due to childhood abuse, is a longtime drug addict who had gotten clean after his arrest and needed the services that could be provided by the federal government to treat his substance abuse and mental health issues.
Moody did not initially seem receptive to Tinsley's entreaties for probation but appeared to relent, although with reservations, and he strongly cautioned Smith about the consequences of stepping out of line.
"If you do something that violates that probation, you will do jail time," Moody said sternly. "Probably more than you would have if you'd been facing it to begin with."
Another co-defendant, Demario Smith, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for his plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in exchange for the dismissal of one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Two other defendants, Moses Soria and Carolyn Slaughter, had charges against them dismissed late last year.