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Drug trafficking nets Jonesboro man 151 months

by Dale Ellis | September 14, 2023 at 3:40 a.m.

A Craighead County man who pleaded guilty in May to one count each of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and fentanyl was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years, 7 months in federal prison.

Jerquawn Sherrell, 33, of Jonesboro, was arrested in October of last year following a traffic stop by Arkansas State Police as he returned to Arkansas from a trip to Missouri.

Sherrell’s attorney, Charles P. Allen Jr. of Helena-West Helena, asked U.S. District Judge James M. Moody sentence Sherrell to a below guideline sentence of 10 years in prison, the statutory minimum sentence for the methamphetamine count. That count carries a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison. Sherrell’s recommended guideline sentencing range was calculated at 121 months to 151 months in prison.

Allen, noting that two rows of the courtroom gallery were packed with Sherrell’s family members, said that his family support and his assumption of responsibility early in the case justified the statutory minimum sentence.

“He decided at an early stage to take responsibility and go forward,” Allen said, “to do his time and get out and get back to his babies.” Allen said Sherrell and his fiancee, who is legally blind, have six children together. He said Sherrell also suffers from severe sleep apnea, high blood pressure and heart disease, and asked that he be sentenced to a medical facility in the Bureau of Prisons.

“My brother is a great man who made a mistake,” said Sherrell’s sister, Jawanda Sherrell, speaking in support of her brother. “He’s a great father, a loving son and a great brother.” Jawanda Sherrell said her brother’s legal travails had taken a toll on the whole family, and she grew emotional as she asked Moody for leniency.

“He don’t deserve it,” she said, tearfully. “I just pray God put it in your heart to be lenient on my brother.” Sherrell apologized to his family, his fiancee and his children, “for causing them this pain and suffering I’ve put them through.” “I won’t never put myself back in this situation,” he said, his voice cracking and muffled sobs audible from his family.

Citing the danger posed by fentanyl — an opioid the Drug Enforcement Administration has said is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin — Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin O’Leary asked Moody to sentence Sherrell to 15 years in prison, 29 months above the maximum guideline range of 12 years 7 months.

Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Patrick Thomas, who testified Wednesday for the government, said upon his arrival to Arkansas the first case he was given to pursue was into drug trafficking by Sherrell. Thomas said during his involvement in the investigation he helped arrange two controlled drug buys from Sherrell in January 2022 and the following July, during which investigators purchased over a half-pound of methamphetamine and 50 fentanyl pills.

“Where did those controlled buys take place?” O’Leary asked.

“Inside of his apartment with his fiancee and children present,” Thomas said.

Thomas testified that during the investigation, Sherrell regularly changed vehicles and drove in random patterns in an effort to thwart surveillance. After placing a GPS tracker on one of Sherrell’s vehicles, Thomas said, he was tracked to southeast Missouri and, suspecting that he was there to replenish his drug supply, set up a traffic stop near the state line.

“We discovered just over two pounds of methamphetamine, two firearms, his fiancee and his children in the vehicle,” he said.

“Were the firearms loaded?” O’Leary asked.

“Yes they were,” Thomas answered.

A subsequent search of Sherrell’s apartment, Thomas said, turned up a small quantity of cocaine and marijuana and, located in the kitchen pantry, 220 fentanyl pills hidden inside a package of coffee creamer. Thomas said the pills were stashed in close proximity to various snacks and food items.

During the investigation, Thomas said, police learned from confidential informants and from suspects interviewed post-arrest that Sherrell was considered to be the primary source for fentanyl pills in the northeast corner of the state. He said after Sherrell’s arrest, police observed a marked drop in the availability of both fentanyl and methamphetamine in and around Jonesboro, “along with a marked drop in overdose investigations that were conducted in the immediate window after his arrest.” Following Thomas’ testimony, O’Leary, pointing out that Sherrell was “a primary source of fentanyl” to the point that the 2nd Judicial District Drug Task Force had requested federal assistance in the investigation, asked Moody for a 15-year sentence.

“It was a huge amount of fentanyl he was putting on the streets of northeast Arkansas,” she said. “I think the high end of the guidelines is insufficient.” But Moody, saying the guidelines had already taken into consideration all of the circumstances of the offense, disagreed and sentenced Sherrell to 151 months in prison — the high end of the guideline range — on each of the two counts and ordered the sentences to be served concurrently. He also ordered Sherrell to serve five years supervised release on the methamphetamine count and three years on the fentanyl count after he leaves prison, both to be served concurrently as well.

“We love you,” called out family members as Sherrell was led from the courtroom. “We got you, big boy.”


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