Friday, 19 September 2008
Adrian Cawthon, 29, Tremain Hamilton, 23, and Rodrick Slack, 30, all of Milton, were found guilty by a federal jury following a three day trial.
Cawthon, Hamilton, and Slack, were the three remaining defendants charged in a federal drug conspiracy case out of Santa Rosa County. All 20 originally indicted by a federal grand jury back in July of this year in “Operation No Limit” have been convicted.
Based upon the large amount of cocaine involved and the criminal history of the defendants, each faces up to life imprisonment.
Senior United States District Judge Lacey A. Collier will sentence the defendants on December 9, 2008.
During the three-day trial for Cawthon, Hamilton, and Slack, the jury herd from witnesses and saw physical evidence linking the three defendants with one another doing the course of a four-and-a-half-year criminal conspiracy.
Witnesses testified how the three defendants would travel out of Santa Rosa County to obtain multiple kilograms of cocaine and then return in order to “cook” the cocaine into crank cocaine for distribution on the streets of Milton and Bagdad.
In his closing argument, Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg reminded the jury how each of the witnesses not only linked the defendants together in the criminal conspiracy, but also how specific physical evidence supported verdicts of guilty.
Evidence included the defendants being caught in a vehicle in Texas with over $60,000 in cash and a loaded semi-automatic handgun, one of the defendants possessing crack cocaine in a separate vehicle, and photographs linking the defendants to one another during the time frame of the conspiracy.
When the arrests were made Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall said the Sheriff’s Office had received countless complaints from the community regarding illegal drug sales and drug related activities in the neighborhood. The Sheriff’s Office began investigating and notified Federal Agencies who assisted with the sting operation.
“We expect this to have a tremendous positive impact not just in Bagdad and Milton, but in the entire area due to the elimination of drug trafficking and drug related behavior that have been eliminated with these arrests; the conclusion of “Operation No Limit” is expected to have a great impact on drug activity in Santa Rosa County,” says Hall.
“The operation took two years due to the time consuming nature of being able to purchase such large quantities from the dealers; volumes large enough to result in Federal indictments. These were big targets and were definitely worth the investment of time and money, “ says Hall. “Several agencies were involved including the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshalls, FDLE, IRS, Milton Police Department, along with state and county probation.”
Sgt. Scott Haines, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer, says the drug ring had been linked to many shootings and home invasions in the area over the last several years. “One of the large scale dealers, who is being federally indicted, was involved in a shooting in Pensacola a couple years ago. He was actually shot in the head in the parking lot of an adult entertainment related business,” says Haines.
“Some of the arrested individuals informed law enforcement about other suspects, which resulted in further arrests and is expected to result in additional arrests in the future,” says Hall. “One of the targets has been in the community for years and has been a major drug dealer for many, many years.”
The investigation focused on an area in Bagdad, which Hall described as an "open air drug market" on Limit Street in Bagdad.
“These suspects actually had chairs spread out around a bonfire pit that was set up at one area in order to just hang out and sell drugs,” says Haines.
Some of the items seized by investigators include 1,100 grams of power cocaine and 130 grams of crack cocaine, as well as six vehicles. Around $1,800 in cash was taken from the pockets of those who were arrested and agents seized marijuana, as well as hand guns, long guns, and various other items and controlled substances at the time the warrants were executed.
Officials involved in the investigation indicated they had either purchased over $130,000 worth of crack cocaine alone during the investigation. According to Haines and other officials involved in the arrests, several hundred thousand dollars worth of drugs and guns were seized.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg.