Four plead guilty to drug charges

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By Brian Funk, Editor

ROANOKE — Four men pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to charges related to a drug distribution organization in the area of Galax known as “The Hill.”

Those pleading guilty included Danny Lee Peoples, 38; Tommy Lamont Jones, 33; and Cory Vernice Robinson, 39; all of Galax; and Shawn Dewayne Randle, 36, of Winston Salem, N.C.

“I am pleased that these four men have accepted responsibility for their actions and will be punished accordingly,” Acting United States Attorney Julia C. Dudley said.

All four men — along with Gordon Ray Jones Jr., 31; Tony Michael Brown, 51; and Jonathan Brown, 43; all of Galax — were charged in a 31-count indictment in December 2007 with conspiracy to possess and possession with the intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine.

In addition, each man was charged with additional, individual possession and distribution charges.

In court Monday, Peoples, Randle, Tommy Jones and Robinson all pled guilty to count one of the indictment, charging each of them with conspiring to possess the cocaine and possession of the drugs with intent to distribute them.

Gordon Jones previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy on July 18. Hearings for Jonathan Brown and Tony Michael Brown are scheduled for the near future.

The maximum penalty faced by each defendant is a term of life imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $4 million.

There is also a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years associated with the conspiracy charge. However, Gordon Jones and Peoples face a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years imprisonment because of certain sentence enhancements imposed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

All four men who pled guilty Monday will have separate sentencing hearings on November 18.

According to evidence, the four who pled guilty Monday, along with Gordon Jones, were members of a crack cocaine distribution organization called “The Enterprise.”

Prosecutors said these men and others sold crack cocaine in an area of Galax, known as “The Hill.”

This area, historically known for the presence of crack cocaine dealers, has only one route, Calloway Street, that allows vehicles to enter, making it relatively easy for the co-conspirators to be aware of, and control, who entered “The Hill,” Dudley said.

As a result, oftentimes the co-conspirators simply stood outside in the open and sold crack to passing cars, using lookouts to warn the sellers when police were entering “The Hill.”

The investigation revealed that, on more than one occasion, members of the conspiracy sold crack from a parking lot of a local church. Other times, the coconspirators used homes located within “The Hill” to meet with buyers and sell crack cocaine.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police and the Twin County Drug Task Force _ made up of officers from Galax, Carroll and Grayson.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlene R. Day is prosecuting the case for the United States.

“The men and women who investigated this case should be commended for the hard work and long hours spent brining these defendants to justice,” Dudley said.