Misconduct alleged in case

Special
Lisa Godbey Wood: Judge has not yet set a hearing date to consider the misconduct allegations.

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood will have to sort through allegations of professional misconduct, secretly recorded phone calls and an admitted romantic affair between a narcotics officer and a convicted drug dealer before deciding what to do with a pending criminal case.

The case centers on Marya Tapp, a major methamphetamine dealer facing a lengthy federal prison sentence.

Ms. Tapp was caught Aug. 16 with more than 10 ounces of methamphetamine, digital scales and $5,914 in cash in her purse.

That night, she did what many people facing long federal prison sentences do: She agreed to cooperate with law enforcement.

Within two months, she was having an affair with one of the narcotics investigators on her case, James Tredore, a 14-year Richmond County sheriff's department veteran, according to court documents.

Ms. Tapp and her attorney expected the prosecutor to recommend a sentencing reduction because of her assistance with other cases.

However, according to a defense motion, the federal prosecutor engaged in a "shocking saga of prosecutorial abuse" after top officers confronted Mr. Tredore about his relationship with Ms. Tapp in early November and forced him to resign.

Ms. Tapp is now asking the court to force the prosecutor to grant a sentencing reduction recommendation or dismiss the indictment against her. Ms. Tapp's attorney, Richard Ingram, wrote in his motion that Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Johnson has a vendetta against Ms. Tapp because Ms. Johnson is a friend of Mr. Tredore. The attorney wrote that Ms. Johnson blames Ms. Tapp for the forced resignation.

Mr. Ingram also alleges that, in addition to improperly withdrawing the promise to recommend a sentencing reduction, Ms. Johnson threatened to seek a sentencing enhancement and even threatened to get South Carolina to prosecute Ms. Tapp for drug charges there.

In response, federal prosecutors said Friday that Ms. Tapp's anticipated sentence reduction was based on cooperation that would lead to convictions. Because the integrity of the cases has been jeopardized by the affair, obtaining convictions is questionable, they said.

The prosecutors included transcripts of phone calls to Ms. Johnson that were secretly recorded by the defense attorney. Those transcripts were filed in Ms. Tapp's case, as were transcripts of Ms. Tapp's telephone calls to Mr. Tredore that were recorded at the jail where she is incarcerated.

Ms. Tapp, the prosecutors wrote, manipulated Mr. Tredore and her attorney to manufacture false allegations of government misconduct.

Judge Wood has not set a hearing date to consider the allegations and what she will do with the charges pending against Ms. Tapp.

Less than three months before her latest arrest on drug charges, Ms. Tapp had been convicted in Richmond County Superior Court of dealing in methamphetamine. She was sentenced to probation in that case.

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