For Less Time
By BILL JONES
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati has upheld the drug and firearms convictions of former Limestone dairy farmer Richard Glen Milburn.
A three-judge appeals court panel, in a decision filed Tuesday, affirmed the judgment of U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan and the 480-month prison (40-year) sentence imposed in the case of Milburn, 55, formerly of 1075 Old Milburnton Road, Limestone.
In his appeal, Milburn had raised three arguments for overturing his convictions:
* venue was improper as to the drug and firearm offenses relating to his arrest in Georgia;
* the variance between the quantity of marijuana charged and the amount determined in the jury's verdict on count one (of the indictment) is impermissible and should result in dismissal of that count;
* the district court failed to consider fully all factors underlying the application of a reasonable sentence.
The appeals court rejected those arguments and affirmed the conviction.
Milburn had been found guilty by a U.S. District Court jury here in December 2006, of conspiracy to distribute both methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as possessing firearms during a drug crime.
He also was found guilty of possessing marijuana on May 23, 2006, while being held at the Greene County Detention Center awaiting trial on the other charges.
Milburn was sentenced in April 2007 in U.S. District Court here to 40 years in federal prison for drug-conspiracy, drug possession and firearms charges.
Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan imposed the 40-year sentence.
The judge waived a fine in the case, but directed that Milburn pay a "special assessment" of $1,000 and forfeit $66,170 in cash, a 2003 Chevrolet pickup truck, and two handguns that had been seized by federal agents from Milburn during the investigation.
10 Federal Charges
A U.S. District Court jury last Dec. 12 found Milburn guilty of 10 federal drug conspiracy charges, drug possession charges, and firearms charges that had been placed against him.
Milburn originally had been charged in an 11-count indictment, but count three of that indictment, which charged him with involvement in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine here, was dropped by federal prosecutors before his trial began last December.
The jury found Milburn guilty of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana, and of two counts of possessing firearms during a drug crime, plus a charge of possessing marijuana at the Greene County Detention Center while awaiting trial.
During the April 2007 sentencing hearing, Milburn's defense attorney, Alexander M. Salerno, asked Judge Jordan to "show some kind of mercy" to Milburn.
Salerno told the judge that Milburn had been a "hard-working farmer" for the majority of his life and was well-liked and respected in his community.
Referring to a large number of letters of support that had been written on Milburn's behalf, the defense attorney noted that the letters were from "people in the community who have nothing to gain by writing a letter."
Salerno also told the court that he had never seen "such a groundswell of support" from a community.
The defense attorney also argued that Milburn had been "a victim of his own addiction to methamphetamine" and of depression brought on by injuries suffered in an accident.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Reeves, who prosecuted Milburn, told the court that the government was recommending a sentence of 40 years.
The judge stated that he had read many letters that expressed support for Milburn but noted that the court had "no discretion" other than to impose the minimum mandatory sentences required by law.
Judge Jordan also said he would honor a defense request and recommend that Milburn be allowed to serve his sentence at a federal prison in Lexington, Ky.
A large number of Milburn's family members and supporters filled most of the available spectator seats in the courtroom during the sentencing hearing.
Sobs could be heard from the audience as deputy U.S. marshals led Milburn from the courtroom.
Russ Dedrick, then the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said during a Johnson City press conference in January 2006 that Milburn allegedly had taken part in "one of the largest, if not the largest, drug importation and distribution organizations that Upper East Tennessee has had in a long time."
A superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in August 2006 alleged that Milburn and co-defendants Victor Vargas, Sidney Charles Terrell and James Franklin Devotie conspired between January 1995 and Dec. 13, 2005, with several men who were named in the indictment (but not charged) to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana here.
Vargas, Terrell and Devotie signed plea agreements with government prosecutors.
The unindicted co-conspirators named in the superseding indictment were: Luis Antonio Medina, Doug Keith Davis, Eric Phillip Shawback, Michael Damon Bawgus, Mark Allen Saults, Shannon Luttrell, Robert Anthony Hampton, Derek Anthony "Tony" Keys and Travis Brown.
All the unindicted co-conspirators named in the superseding indictment entered into plea agreements, prosecutors said.
Milburn received, by far, the most severe sentence handed down in the case.