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36 people arrested in joint federal, state and local law enforcement effort

Brandon Moseley

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A joint federal, state, and local law enforcement initiative resulted in the arrests of 36 individuals earlier this month on a variety of criminal charges, including drug trafficking, money laundering, using communication facilities to facilitate drug trafficking and various firearms offenses.

The arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr., and United States Postal Inspector in Charge, Houston Division, Adrian Gonzalez. The majority of the defendants were arrested in North Alabama, but there were also some defendants arrested in California, Iowa, Virginia and Tennessee.

“There is no daylight between local, state and federal law enforcement,” Town said. “These indictments represent the hard work of many of our law enforcement partners, and exemplify our global efforts of taking on the most dangerous criminals menacing our neighborhoods. Our relationships across the board have never been stronger.”

“I was pleased to join our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in Huntsville today to announce the arrest of 36 individuals on a variety of charges, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said.

“These arrests are indicative of DEA’s commitment to rid our communities of drug trafficking organizations determined to profit on the backs of addiction,” said Morris. “Citizens in Northern Alabama can rest assured that the DEA and our law enforcement partners are determined to ensure these communities remain safe and a great place to live. The success of this investigation is an outstanding example of our law enforcement community’s resolve and determination.”

“North Alabama is safer today as a result of this operation,” Sharp said. “This was an outstanding example of law enforcement partnerships working together to remove dangerous criminals from our neighborhoods.”

“The Postal Service has no interest in being the unwitting accomplice to anyone using the U.S. Mail to distribute illegal drugs or other harmful substances,” Gonzalez said. “Postal Inspectors will continue to work with our local and federal law enforcement partners to investigate and hold accountable those who misuse the U.S. Mail. Through our joint efforts, we have dismantled a criminal organization that posed a direct threat to various communities in multiple states.”

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“We thank our State and Federal partners for their efforts and support in helping rid our community of illegal activity,” Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner said. “We value our partnerships and will continually look for opportunities to enhance our ability to protect and serve all of Madison County.”
Town said that there were 38 indictments and 140 charges filed.

The arrests resulted from the combined efforts of local law enforcement agencies across eight counties in Northern Alabama, working with State and Federal law enforcement partners. Law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation included: Drug Enforcement Agency; United States Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms; United States Postal Inspection Service; Office of the Attorney General State of Alabama; Alabama Law Enforcement Agency; Morgan County Sheriff’s Department; Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department; Decatur Police Department; Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department; Colbert County Sheriff’s Department; Franklin County Sheriff’s Department; Russellville Police Department; Marion County Sheriff’s Department; Huntsville Police Department, Cullman County Sheriff’s Department, Cullman Police Department, and the Wayne County (Tennessee) Sheriff’s Department.

In the spring of 2018, Special Agents of the DEA, and members of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and ALEA began an investigation involving quantities of high quality methamphetamine being sold in Morgan and Lawrence County.

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The agents quickly learned that the methamphetamine was being distributed not only in those areas, but also in the surrounding areas as far south as Cullman and as far north as Tennessee, by multiple affiliated individuals. The agents also learned that the methamphetamine was coming from the San Bernardino area of California.

The ring reportedly has ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

During the course of the investigation, over 74 pounds of “ice” methamphetamine, a kilo of cocaine hydrochloride and 46 grams of “crack” cocaine was seized. Twenty guns were also seized, including two assault rifles and a short barrel shotgun. Some of the guns seized were identified as stolen. Over $123,000 was seized by federal agencies. This amount does not include amounts of money seized and forfeited by state and local agencies.

The DEA, FBI, and USPIS, investigated the case in conjunction with state and local authorities. Mary Stuart Burrell is prosecuting.

These charges in the indictments are merely allegations that a crime has been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Crime

Alabama parole officers seize firearms, ammunition and drugs in Enterprise

The seized evidence will be presented to a grand jury for further action and to authorities for potential federal charges.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Officers of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday seized two semiautomatic weapons, ammunition and drugs from a convicted armed robber in an operation in Enterprise. One of the seized weapons was stolen.

Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles director Charlie Graddick praised officers Jared McPhaul and Troy Staley for their work.

“The first job every day of our officers is to protect public safety,” Graddick said. “These officers stopped a parolee with a violent history from potentially using illegal weapons to harm someone. We are all grateful for their hard work and dedication.”

The officers arrested parolee Jay Gatewood on a parole violation. Gatewood is out on parole after serving prison time for first-degree robbery and child abuse. Evidence of a possible parole violation was found after a search of Gatewood’s car.

The seized evidence will be presented to a grand jury for further action and to authorities for potential federal charges.

Parolees are required to report to parole officers periodically. Gatewood had failed to report for the month of October so McPhaul directed him to come to the Enterprise office to report. The officers had received a tip that Gatewood might be engaging in illegal activities.

When Gatewood arrived, the officers, acting on the tip, asked if there was anything improper in his vehicle. On questioning, Gatewood admitted to the officers that there was a gun in his car.

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McPhaul and Staley then searched the vehicle and found two 9 mm semiautomatic handguns. They also found three ammunition magazines, two of which were fully loaded, and a jar of marijuana with a digital scale.

The parole officers turned the evidence over to the Enterprise Police Department. McPhaul said that one of the guns had been reported stolen.

On March 17, 2008, Gatewood was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the armed robbery of a Dothan law office. He received three additional years for a child abuse conviction.

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After serving just eight years of his sentence with the Alabama Department of Corrections, Gatewood was paroled in 2016. This was before Graddick was appointed the director of Pardons and Paroles. Gatewood has been supervised by parole officers since his release from prison.

For a convicted criminal to be in possession of firearms is a federal offense. That as well as the possession of illegal drugs and stolen property are all parole violations.

Gatewood, who has been jailed for the alleged parole violations, could potentially have his parole revoked for any one or more of these offenses. That will be determined in a future hearing.

Gatewood could potentially face new charges in the federal system for the gun charge. The stolen property and the marijuana could also be prosecuted in the state court system.

The possession of the digital scale is an indication that the marijuana was for other than personal use.

Depending on the amount of marijuana in the jar and any other evidence presented to the grand jury, Gatewood could potentially face a felony drug charge.

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Crime

Alabama inmate dies after inmate-on-inmate assault

Edwin Wells, 29, died on Oct. 10 from injuries during an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A Prattville man became at least the 19th Alabama inmate to have died this year in a state prison of circumstances that were avoidable. 

Edwin Wells, 29, died on Oct. 10 from injuries during an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday. 

Wells death makes at least the 19th inmate to have died from either suicide, drug overdoses or homicide, according to records kept by the ACLU of Alabama’s Campaign for Smart Justice. His death is at least the seventh suspected homicide in state prisons this year. 

ADOC doesn’t typically publish information on an inmate death unless a reporter discovers the death through other means and requests the information, with the expectation of deaths of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19, which the department does regularly release. 

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against Wells by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in a message to APR. “Wells’s exact cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and more information will be available upon the conclusion of the investigation into his death.”

A U.S. Department of Justice report in April 2019 found that Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons for men were likely in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and that ADOC regularly failed to protect inmates from sexual and physical violence perpetrated by other inmates.

An expected followup report by the Department of Justice in July detailed why the federal government believes systemic use of excessive force within Alabama’s prisons for men violates the Eighth Amendment. 

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As of Tuesday, at least 29 state inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19. There have been 453 confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates and 429 among prison staff as of Oct. 14, according to ADOC.

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Crime

28th Alabama inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic, 441 Alabama inmates and 415 staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Johnny Dwight Terry on Oct. 8 became the 28th Alabama inmate to die after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Terry, 74, had multiple health conditions and was taken from Limestone Correctional Facility to a local hospital on Oct. 6 after exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. He tested positive at the hospital where he remained until his death, the Alabama Department of Corrections said in a press release on Friday. 

Two additional inmates and four workers at Limestone prison also tested positive for COVID-19, according to ADOC, bringing the total number of inmates who have tested positive at the prison to 23 and infected staff to 26. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 441 Alabama inmates and 415 staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Two prison workers at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman died after testing positive for the disease. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 2,834 had been tested for coronavirus as of Oct. 7, according to ADOC.

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Corruption

Attorney general opposes motion to reconsider Hubbard’s prison sentence

“Hubbard is not being punished for his reversed convictions. He is being punished for the crimes of which he remains convicted,” Marshall wrote to the court. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard reported for his prison sentence at the Lee County Detention Facility on Sept. 11.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in a court filing Tuesday opposed a request by former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorney for the court to reconsider his 4-year sentence on six felony ethics violations.

Marshall in the filing said that after four years of appeals, Hubbard remains convicted of those felonies.

“This Court’s carefully calibrated sentence of a four-year split, among other penalties, properly accounted for the severity of Hubbard’s crimes, the position of trust he abused, and the need for serious penalties to deter other wrongdoers,” Marshall wrote to the court. “In addition, Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency now that he is finally in jail.”

“In sum, nothing material has changed since Hubbard earned his four-year sentence four years ago. It’s simply time for him to serve it. Accordingly, his motion should be denied,’ Marshall continued.

Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.

He began serving his four-year sentence for the six convictions of using his office for personal gain on Sept. 11.

Hubbard’s attorney argued in a separate court filing that the court should reconsider his sentence because five of the 12 convictions were reversed, but Marshall told the court Tuesday that the sentence Hubbard received was just.

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“Hubbard is not being punished for his reversed convictions. He is being punished for the crimes of which he remains convicted,” Marshall wrote to the court.

Hubbard’s attorney in his request to reconsider sentencing also argued that Hubbard has already suffered from a “divestment of his business interests.”

Hubbard’s convictions related to consulting contracts that enriched him while he served as speaker.

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The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.

“Suffice it to say, it is a bad advocacy strategy for Hubbard to mourn his loss of an income stream worth millions, which he financed on the backs of hard-working Alabamians who expected an honest elected official. That Hubbard has lost some of these ill-gotten gains in no way suggests that Hubbard has paid back his debt to society,” Marshall wrote to the court.

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