Originally created 01/23/04

83 arrested in yearlong drug probe



Richmond County sheriff's deputies and state agents arrested more than 80 people Thursday after a yearlong investigation into illegal drug sales.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said deputies and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents began making the 83 arrests at about 5:30 a.m. based on information collected during undercover drug purchases made during the past 11 months.

"These are the guys that the general public sees every day," Sheriff Strength said, noting that people arrested in the roundup are suspected of being individual drug dealers, but not part of a larger drug ring.

The majority of those arrested in the drug sales were charged with selling cocaine, a felony under Georgia law, Sheriff Strength said, and range in age from 17 to 30.

Richmond County jail booking records show that most of those arrested were charged with single counts of selling cocaine or marijuana, but a few were charged with multiple counts of sales.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Carlson said people convicted of selling cocaine can be sentenced from five to 30 years in prison or on probation for the first offense.

Second and subsequent offenses can result in sentences from 10 to 40 years - or life - in prison, Mr. Carlson said. Those convicted for the sale of marijuana can be sentenced from one to 10 years,he said.

Assistant District Attorney Shauna Reeves said Superior Court judges must determine each individual's bond because of the severity of the charges.

She said her office will try to make special arrangements to get bonds addressed by judges as timely as possible.

Despite overcrowding problems at both county jail facilities, Sheriff Strength said those arrested will remain in jail until a bond is set.

"A lot of people will be on the floor," he said. "Just because we're overcrowded won't stop us from going out and putting folks in jail who are breaking the law."

Sheriff Strength also said that the drug roundup resulted in authorities finding people involved in local gangs, and that police were able to get more information about them.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.