Federal Judge Sandy Mattice on Monday sentenced Darius Jermaine Blakemore to 23 years in federal prison for selling heroin to a Red Bank man who overdosed and died.
Blakemore, 29, had gone to trial on the case, but it was announced in the middle of the trial that both sides had agreed to the 23-year term. Blakemore had faced 30 years to life.
Blakemore pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death, distribution of heroin resulting in death, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute crack, and possession with intent to distribute heroin.
According to his plea agreement on file with U.S.
District Court and proof presented at his trial, in February 2016 Blakemore sold a gram of heroin to Jessica Rachels in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Chattanooga. After Ms. Rachels arrived at the McDonald’s parking lot, Blakemore gave the heroin to one of his runners, Joshua Corbett, who delivered the heroin to Ms. Rachels. She gave a portion of the heroin she received from Corbett to Logan Whiteaker, 24, of Red Bank, who drove her to purchase the drugs.
A family member found Whiteaker dead the next morning on the bathroom floor of his Red Bank residence with a hypodermic needle clutched in his hand. A container on the bathroom counter had .64 grams of heroin inside. Whiteaker had graduated from Hamilton County Drug Court less than 24 hours prior to his death.
Ms. Rachels and Corbett were also charged with distribution of heroin resulting in death. Like Blakemore, both pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin resulting in death and were each sentenced to serve 10 years in prison. Upon their release, they will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for three years as will Blakemore.
“Heroin has proven to be a deadly poison that does not discriminate,” said J. Douglas Overbey, U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Tennessee. “Its victims span gender, race, age, and economic background, and its debilitating effects are the same across all demographics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin deaths have now surpassed gun homicides. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not stand idle as the death toll continues to rise. We will use all of the tools available to us to hold drug dealers like Blakemore accountable for their actions,” added U.S. Attorney Overbey.
Federal law provides enhanced penalties for drug dealers who distribute controlled substances that lead to overdose deaths, including a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.
John McGarry, Resident Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Chattanooga, said, ”The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and their Task Force partners from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Red Bank Police Department, Chattanooga Police Department, and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will investigate and pursue overdose deaths in Southeast Tennessee to the fullest extent of the law. The sentencing of Darius Blakemore stands as an example of this coalition’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable elements of our community from the persistent threat of heroin.”
Law enforcement agencies participating in the joint investigation that led to the charges in this case include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and Red Bank Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Porter and Scott Winne represented the United States in court proceedings.