2 Arkansas men plead guilty in drug trafficking, weapons case

As a February trial date looms closer for a group of defendants named in a 35-person indictment resulting from a federal investigation into drug trafficking and gang violence in Central Arkansas, two defendants entered pleas Monday in federal court, and another nine defendants are scheduled to enter pleas over the next 10 days.

Edward House II, 28, of Little Rock and Aaron “A-Nick” Nichols, 34, of Stuttgart were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Little Rock in November that named 35 alleged members and associates of the street gang EBK (Every Body Killas). Both men were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. House was also charged with possession of ammunition by a felon. Nichols was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and use of a telephone in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

House, who is in federal custody at the Greene County jail in Paragould, pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition by a felon. Nichols, who is on pretrial release, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters asked U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. to dismiss the remaining charges against both men after the judge accepted their guilty pleas.

Both men are facing a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of three years on supervised release. However, Moody warned both men that if either one qualifies for sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act, they could face a sentence of 15 years to life in prison and five years on supervised release.

Peters said House was intercepted on the night of June 18, 2022, on an FBI wiretap on co-defendant Timothy Parker’s cellphone during which Parker was heard warning House that several people were headed to his residence “with Dracos, meaning firearms.” A Draco is a shorter, pistol version of the AK-47 that has gained popularity after repeated references to the weapon in rap music lyrics, according to the music industry website Pitchfork.

“House was then overheard passing this information on to other individuals at his house,” Peters said.

In a subsequent call by Parker to House, Peters said, when asked if everyone was OK, she said House replied, “Hell yeah, appreciate it. They came around trying to shoot.” Peters said a bystander was injured during the shooting after getting caught in the crossfire between the two groups.

That bystander, according to news reports, was Loretta Hendrix, daughter of the late Ward 1 City Director Erma Hendrix. News reports said Loretta Hendrix was driving in the area when gunfire broke out and suffered a gunshot wound to her leg. News reports said Hendrix’s sister, Phyllis Brown, was riding in the vehicle with her but was not injured.

A search of House’s residence five days later turned up a large quantity of .45 ACP and .380 ACP ammunition inside the residence, as well as 15.8 pounds of marijuana and a set of digital scales.

During Nichols’ hearing, Peters said he was intercepted on a wiretap the FBI had placed on co-defendant Jeremy Green’s cellphone discussing drug-trafficking activities with Green. Peters said the two men used Nichols’ Little Rock apartment to store marijuana, money and guns.

“At times,” Peters said, “Nichols also distributed multi-pound quantities of marijuana for Green.” She said a search of the apartment on Oct. 9, 2022, turned up 25 pounds of marijuana, four firearms and $42,620 in cash.

One of the firearms, a loaded Bersa .380 ACP pistol, Peters said, was “in Nichols’ hand as he came downstairs to meet the agents executing the search warrant.” Other firearms seized were a Palmetto State Armory .223-caliber rifle with a loaded 30-round magazine, a Ruger .40 Smith & Wesson pistol and a loaded FN USA .40 Smith & Wesson pistol.

After Nichols entered his plea, Moody granted a request by his attorney, Chris Baker of Little Rock, to allow Nichols to remain free on pre-trial conditions while he awaits sentencing.

“As long as he performs as he has on bond,” Peters said, “we have no objections.” House, who was represented by Greg Bryant of Little Rock, was remanded back into federal custody.

Both men will be sentenced later this year after completion of a pre-sentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office in Little Rock.

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