Originally created 01/21/05

Ruling doesn't cut drug decision

The federal sentencing guidelines are now advisory instead of mandatory, but on Thursday an Augusta judge found them right on target.

Three men involved in a major, multistate drug trafficking network appeared before U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. for sentencing. They were the first sentenced in Augusta since last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended two decades of slavish accordance to the federal sentencing guidelines.

Devon A. Speid, of New York; Michael A. Durousseau, of New Orleans; and Richard Whitehead, of Augusta, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to possess and distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine.

The federal crime carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and under the guidelines Mr. Speid and Mr. Whitehead would have faced longer potential prison sentences.

Their attorneys asked Judge Bowen to make use of the new law of the land to impose sentences below the guideline minimums of 135 months and 185 months, respectively.

Under the sentencing guidelines, Mr. Durousseau faced 120 to 121 months, which is also the mandatory minimum set for the offense.

Without a good reason to depart from the guideline calculations, Judge Bowen said, "I will continue to give guidelines great weight."

While all three men played minor courier roles in the conspiracy, it was a large distribution enterprise, Judge Bowen said.

He sentenced Mr. Speid to 135 months, Mr. Durousseau to 120 months and Mr. Whitehead to 188 months.

The ringleader of the operation, Willie Brown, of Florida, also has pleaded guilty, as have Dorothy Hall and Robert Elam, of Augusta, and Eustach Sullivan, of Texas. They are awaiting sentencing.

Carl Allison, of Texas, who was arrested last month, has pleaded not guilty.

Local narcotic agents began hearing about Ms. Hall's cocaine dealings in January 1999. Since then, a woman was arrested at the Atlanta airport with 1 kilograms of cocaine intended for Ms. Hall and Mr. Brown, an agent testified at a previous court hearing.

Police found 10 more kilograms in a Mississippi traffic stop, made controlled buys from Mr. Elam, picked up $215,000 in drug proceeds during a Louisiana traffic stop and seized another $23,000 when Ms. Hall's home was raided in February.

According to the indictment, the drug trafficking took place from January 1999 through May in Georgia, New York, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.


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