BY KEN LITTLE
Brandon Dale Shelton apologized in federal court Tuesday for his actions following an armed robbery last year at a Greeneville Federal Bank branch that impeded the investigation into the crime.
Shelton, 19, avoided a prison sentence and was sentenced to three years' probation by Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan.
He pleaded guilty in October 2012 to making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
Judge Jordan took into account Shelton's later assistance with the investigation and his testimony for the prosecution at the trial of Larry Shane Morgan.
Morgan was convicted in October of crimes connected to the July 2, 2012, bank robbery and another holdup several days before at the Stop & Go Convenience Market in Chuckey. He will be sentenced Feb. 21.
All other charges against Shelton were dismissed by the government.
Before sentencing, Shelton thanked the judge for allowing him to go to a rehabilitation facility.
"I'll try to do my best to turn things around," Shelton said.
Jordan told Shelton that his family and friends want him to do just that.
"They want you to overcome your addiction and further your education and training," the judge said.
Jordan noted the "seriousness" of Shelton's offense before sentencing him.
"This involves a defendant who was convicted of two counts of armed robbery," the judge said, referring to Morgan.
Shelton will be subject to drug-testing during his probationary term and was ordered by Jordan to perform 200 hours of community service.
"I want you to overcome your addiction. I want you to learn a trade, and I want you to make your family and friends proud of you," he told Shelton.
Shelton, his mother and other supporters left the courtroom with visible relief on their faces.
LIED TO INVESTIGATORS
Shelton admitted during his plea hearing in October and in testimony at Morgan's trial that he lied to FBI investigators about his role in disposing of a gun and clothing used in the bank robbery.
Co-defendant Kaylen Butcher, 19, was sentenced last month in U.S. District Court to a prison term of five years and one month in connection with her role in the June 28, 2012, armed robbery of the Stop & Go Convenience Market.
Butcher had earlier pleaded guilty to robbery and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
Judge Jordan told Shelton on Tuesday that his lawyer, David L. Leonard, "has negotiated you an outstanding plea agreement."
Before sentencing, Leonard told Jordan that his client was still "a very young man" who ultimately took responsibility for his actions after giving investigators misleading information.
'MODEL' FOR OTHERS
"He knew it shouldn't have happened. Soon after, he told the truth to the investigators in the case, and he took full responsibility for what he has done," Leonard said outside the courtroom.
"He has been a fantastic model for turning your life around at a young age. He's working at being the young man he should be."
Shelton was also charged with being an accessory after the fact in connection with the July 2012 bank robbery that Morgan committed.
"I think once everyone looked at the facts and what his involvement was, we were able to work the case out," Leonard said.
Shelton will remain a convicted felon for the rest of his life, Leonard said.
But "he has a lot of support," Leonard added.
J. Gregory Bowman, prosecuting assistant U.S. attorney, did not object to the probation sentence for Shelton.
Shelton willingly testified for the prosecution at Morgan's October trial.
Butcher, who had a relationship with Morgan that began in 2012, also testified at Morgan's trial.
Shelton testified he is close friends with Butcher and met Morgan several times through her.
Shelton testified that, on the night of July 2, 2012, hours after the Greeneville Federal Bank branch, at 2305 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy., was robbed by an armed man, he was at the Butcher house on Old Stage Road in Chuckey when Morgan arrived with her.
Morgan went into Kaylen Butcher's room with her but did not emerge, Shelton said. Butcher earlier testified that Morgan gave her a bag containing cash and clothing and left out the bedroom window.
Butcher and Shelton went to Shelton's mobile home about five miles away, where they spent the night.
Morgan was carrying a "big bag" when he arrived at Butcher's house, Shelton testified.
Shelton was asked by Bowman if he and Butcher discussed the bank robbery.
"We talked about it for a second. She had a bag of money and a bag of clothes," he said.
Morgan allegedly left Butcher about $1,500 and a pistol, Shelton said. The cash and clothes were taken to Shelton's trailer.
A brick was placed inside a black mesh bag containing clothes used in the bank robbery and the bag was thrown into the Nolichucky River on the way to Shelton's trailer, he testified.
The next morning, July 3, 2012, Shelton and Butcher returned to Butcher's house.
FBI agents arrived about noon, and Butcher was taken into custody and charged in connection with the June 28 robbery of the Stop & Go Market, at 6910 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy.
In the days after Butcher's arrest, Shelton, of Limestone, testified he and several others spent the money Morgan allegedly left with Butcher on clothing, food, jewelry and marijuana.
Shelton testified that, on the night of July 3, he was driven by another friend to a rock quarry near Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park, where he disposed of the 9 mm pistol and ammunition allegedly used by Morgan in the bank robbery.
Earlier on July 3, Shelton testified, he gave the first of several false statements to the FBI about his knowledge of the crimes.
Shelton told Bowman he was trying to protect himself by disposing of the gun and ammunition.
"I knew I might get in trouble if they found [the gun and ammunition]," he testified.
Shelton was asked about a telephone call from Butcher made the night of July 3 after she had been being booked into the Greene County jail.
Butcher told him to remember what she told him earlier. Bowman asked what that meant.
"That night, after she got arrested, she told me to get rid of [the gun]," Shelton said. "That's what it could have [meant] over the phone."
Shelton first denied that he received any money from the bank robbery and said that Butcher disposed of the gun used in the bank robbery.
Under cross-examination by Morgan defense lawyer Benjamin Sharp, Shelton said that FBI agents had explained the penalties for lying to them.
'STUPID TO LIE'
"It was stupid to lie," he said. "I was trying to keep [Butcher] out of trouble, but I ended up getting myself in trouble also."
Sharp asked Shelton if he disposed of the pistol because it was used in the bank robbery.
"Yes," Shelton said.
"Did you rob that bank, Mr. Shelton?" Sharp quickly asked.
"No," Shelton said.