A federal magistrate judge has denied requests by a main defendant in a 34-person cocaine-trafficking conspiracy to throw out wiretap information because of errors in the warrant application.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Carter said in a hearing Wednesday for a different defendant that he "did not find anything wrong with the wiretaps."
Attorneys for defendant Jumoke Johnson Jr. had argued in a June 25 hearing that warrants written by Chattanooga police officer and Drug Enforcement Administration agent James Hixson were either "sloppy" or possibly illegal. Those errors, intentional or otherwise, Johnson's attorney told the judge, meant the evidence obtained should be thrown out.
Carter found only one error, a misplaced reference to the date of the wiretap, in the documents and ruled against Johnson.
Johnson was among 34 charged in the cocaine trafficking conspiracy in November. At least 20 have since pleaded guilty. Of those already sentenced, one received a 10-month prison term, while the defendant in the most severe crime, a carjacking connected to the conspiracy, received an 11-year sentence.
Hixson testified in a Jan. 9 hearing he had information that Johnson was a key leader in the local Rollin 60s Crips-affiliated gang, and that he had been involved in local killings and was able to order other gang members to commit crimes.
In the Wednesday hearing Juanzell Jenkins, who faces a possible 20-year minimum sentence if convicted of trafficking more than 5 kilograms of cocaine over a three-year period, had Carter replace his attorney for the second time since his arrest.
Carter strongly advised Jenkins not to replace his attorney and proceeded to pile compliments upon the legal abilities and experience of John Cavett.
But Jenkins claimed that there has been discovery evidence and other information not shared with him and that he and Cavett "don't see eye-to-eye."
"I think you're making a serious mistake," Carter told Jenkins. But after an hour and a half hearing, Carter granted Jenkins' request.
That move will halt most action in Jenkins' case until a new attorney is appointed. Based on testimony and court documents Jenkins is the "main hub" of a large portion of the larger cocaine conspiracy.
He was the target of surveillance, tracking and wiretaps over the course of at least three years before his arrest.
Contact staff writer Todd South at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.