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White County man, 35, pleads guilty to methamphetamine possession

by Dale Ellis | September 21, 2022 at 4:01 a.m.
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A White County man who was found to be in possession of a pound of methamphetamine and a 9mm pistol while he was on pre-trial release for an earlier meth arrest pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson to one count of possession with intent to deliver the drug.

This was in exchange for dismissal of the earlier indictment as well as the remaining counts on the current indictment.

William Gaines, 35, of Searcy was under a 2018 federal indictment stemming from a November 2017 arrest in Searcy when police found him unconscious in the drive-thru of a local Arby's restaurant.

Although Gaines -- who is diabetic and awaiting a kidney transplant -- was suspected of being intoxicated, he was found to be suffering from low blood sugar after he was taken to an area hospital to be checked out.

While conducting a search of Gaines' vehicle, police found three plastic bags containing about 80 grams of suspected meth, according to a reasonable cause affidavit filed in White County Circuit Court.

Gaines was federally indicted on Dec. 6, 2018, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, all while on pre-trial release.

That case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker. On Jan. 31, 2019, Gaines was released on home detention by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tricia Harris.

Because of Gaines' deteriorating health, Harris removed the home detention restriction on Oct. 26, 2020, following a motion by the U.S. Attorney's office in Little Rock. On August 18, 2021, Gaines was arrested and jailed after authorities discovered a pound of methamphetamine and a Beretta 9mm semi-automatic pistol in his room during a home visit.

Wilson advised Gaines that he is subject to a prison term ranging from 5 to 40 years under U.S. sentencing statutes as well as a possible $5 million fine and a term of 4 years to life on supervised release.

In addition, Wilson said, because he was on pre-trial release at the time of his arrest, he is also subject to a separate 10-year penalty to be served consecutively to any other sentence he may receive.

After explaining Gaines' trial rights and the rights he would forfeit with a guilty plea, Gaines hesitated for about 15 seconds before answering when Wilson asked him if he believed a guilty plea to be in his best interests.

"Well, there was some hesitation there," Wilson said. "Are you sure you think it's in your best interests?"

Gaines' attorney, Ronald Davis Jr. of Little Rock, explained that his client had serious health issues, including the need for kidney dialysis three times a week until he can obtain a kidney transplant. Davis said Gaines had been weighing the advisability of moving forward with a plea in light of his health issues.

"He understands from a legal standpoint that he's in a better position by going forward with the admissions he's going to have to make today," Davis said. "His best interests in terms of the legality of it, I don't think is the issue."

"Is that right?" Wilson asked Gaines.

"Yes, sir," Gaines replied.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Crews outlined the plea agreement, saying that by pleading guilty to the one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, the government would move to dismiss the remaining two counts in the current indictment and the entirety of the 2018 indictment. Crews said any sentence recommendation under the U.S. sentencing guidelines could be enhanced if Gaines is found to qualify for a sentencing enhancement as a career offender.

"It does appear Mr. Gaines is a career criminal based on his history," Crews said.

After Crews' outline of the plea facts -- which included Gaines' 2017 arrest in Searcy, during which Crews said Gaines resisted arrest and had to be subdued with a taser -- Davis questioned the necessity of his client having to plea to conduct contained in the earlier indictment.

"I don't know that acknowledging those facts is necessary considering that indictment is being dismissed today," Davis said.

"The total amount of drugs can be used for the guideline calculation," Crews countered.

"I'm not trying to derail the plea," Davis said, "but my understanding is he pleaded to what I call the second case in exchange for the first case to be dismissed."

Crews said if Davis wanted to contest the facts in the prior case without derailing the plea hearing, he could do so at the sentencing hearing.

"I agree with Mr. Davis that to accept this plea we don't need to get into the facts of the previous arrest," Crews said.

With that agreement in place, Wilson accepted Gaines' plea and set Jan. 5 at 10 a.m. as the sentencing date.

Davis asked that Gaines be placed on home incarceration until sentencing, which Crews objected to on the grounds that Gaines' offense occurred while he was on pre-trial release for the earlier indictment.

"The extraordinary circumstance is he was on the transplant list until he was incarcerated," Davis said, adding that allowing Gaines to remain out of jail during the intervening four months could give him a chance at a transplant. "I agree that Mr. Gaines is likely to be sentenced as a career offender and the likelihood of his surviving incarceration for the amount of time the court will be required to consider are very, very slim."

Wilson denied the motion and ordered Gaines returned to federal custody.

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