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Kingsport crack dealer seeks new trial

Matthew Lane • Updated Jun 7, 2018 at 7:41 AM

GREENEVILLE – A Kingsport crack cocaine dealer convicted earlier this year on federal drug and firearms charges is requesting a new trial, claiming outbursts by government witnesses should have resulted in a mistrial.

In addition, a co-defendant in the matter — Kai Tierre Williams — was sentenced on Monday to 63 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

CASE HISTORY

Following a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Greeneville this past March, a jury convicted James “Boogie” Simonton, 50, of Kingsport of the following charges:

- Conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine.

- Possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

- Three counts of being a felon in possession of firearms.

- Witness intimidation.

The case began when Simonton shot his own son and another young man with an AK-47 two years ago. During the course of the investigation, police discovered the crack cocaine dealings, illegal firearms purchases and witness intimidation.

James West — another son of Simonton and another co-defendant in the case — was sentenced to 84 months in prison back in April. West told authorities he sold an ounce of crack cocaine every other day for his father.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Simonton, who faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison, was scheduled for sentencing next week, but since he has filed a motion for a new trial, Judge Ronnie Greer has delayed the sentencing hearing pending the filing of the trial transcript.

Johnson City attorney Don Spurrell argues in the motion for a new trial that two government witnesses were allowed to inject into evidence outbursts of commentary, facial expressions and body language showing their fear of violent retaliation for their testimony against Simonton.

This witness commentary made Simonton appear as a violent ringleader capable of exacting revenge from either within prison or outside, Spurrell wrote in the March 19 motion. As a consequence, Simonton was severely prejudiced, the motion states.

MOTION TO WITHDRAW

On April 27, Spurrell filed a motion to withdraw as Simonton’s attorney, saying there has been a flurry of allegations made against him by his client.

“The troubles between (Spurrell) and (Simonton) have been well documented,” the motion states. “Those troubles have reached a crescendo with a slurry of allegations ... of (Spurrell’s) complicity with the government. This is a point of no return.”

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