BY KEN LITTLE
A trial date of July 17 was set Wednesday by a federal judge for a former Greeneville pharmacist and five co-defendants all of whom are charged with conspiracy to distribute the narcotic prescription drug Oxycodone.
Last week, Robert D. McNeese, 37, of Afton, entered a Not Guilty plea to the drug count and to another charge of intentionally omitting material information from reports, records and documents relating to required documentation of controlled substances.
The co-defendants in the case are Chucky Joe Copas, Jimmy Lee Hodges, Terry Lee Scalf, Scottie Wayne Leach and George Eugene Copas.
In addition to the drug charge, all co-defendants with the exception of McNeese are charged with the intent to "obstruct, delay and affect, and attempt to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce by extortion."
ALLEGED EXTORTION TARGET
McNeese, a former pharmacist and a former co-owner of Corley's Pharmacy, was the alleged target of the extortion on the part of the other co-defendants, according to court documents.
Chucky Copas and Terry Scalf appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis H. Inman and entered Not Guilty pleas through court-appointed lawyers before a scheduling conference.
The other co-defendants had already entered similar pleas.
Copas, 40, wearing ankle shackles and handcuffs, was escorted out of the courtroom by a U.S. Marshal, as was the handcuffed Scalf.
Copas is being held in the Greene County Detention Center on other pending charges, and there is also a hold on him by the State of North Carolina, Inman said.
Scalf, 40, is being held in the Washington County Detention Center on a violation of probation charge, and has other pending charges against him, the judge said.
Inman set a pretrial conference date of May 16 for lawyers of all defendants except McNeese, whose pretrial conference date is June 11.
The plea bargain cutoff date for defendants is July 3.
20 YEAR MAXIMUM
The first count of the indictment, conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and possession with the intent to distribute Oxycodone, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
McNeese and the other five men are all charged with the first count.
Chucky Joe Copas, George Eugene Copas, Hodges, Scalf and Leach are charged with the second, extortion-related count, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The third count, which only McNeese is charged with, carries a maximum sentence of four years.
MCNEESE FREE ON BOND
McNeese is free on $20,000 bond.
He had been a pharmacist at Corley's Pharmacy in Greeneville since 1999 and became a co-owner of the business in 2004.
The indictment of the six men said that McNeese distributed a quantity of Oxycodone from the pharmacy after being induced to do so "by the wrongful use of fear" by the five co-defendants.
McNeese has not worked at Corley's Pharmacy since July 27, 2011, and is no longer a co-owner, business owner Alan Corley said last week.
"I had drugs missing, and evidence pointed to Mr. McNeese as the one being responsible," Corley said.
The alleged offenses connected to the first count charging Oxycodone distribution were committed from July 2010 until July 28, 2011, according to the indictment naming McNeese and the other defendants.
The defendants knowingly did "combine, conspire, confederate and agree with each other and with diverse other persons" to distribute a quantity of Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, the indictment states.
Events surrounding the extortion-related allegations involving Chucky Copas, George Copas, Hodges, Scalf and Leach, occurred between April and July 28, 2011, the indictment states.
INDUCED BY "FEAR'
The indictment alleges that the five men obtained Oxycodone from Corley's Pharmacy, with McNeese's consent, "induced by the wrongful use of fear, including fear of economic loss."
Count three of the indictment states that McNeese "knowingly and intentionally omitted material information from reports, records and documents" relating to required documentation of controlled substances.
Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Wayne Taylor is prosecuting the case.
Greeneville lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers represents McNeese.
Chucky Joe Copas' lawyer is Guy W. Blackwell. Scalf is represented by Robert B. Dickert.
James T. Bowman represents Hodges, Casey A. Sears II is the lawyer for Leach, and Douglas L. Payne represents George E. Copas.
The investigation that led to the charges being filed against the defendants was conducted by the Greeneville Police Department, the Third Judicial District Drug Task Force, the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy.