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Kingsport drug dealer gets 27 years in federal prison

Matthew Lane • Updated Feb 21, 2019 at 3:55 PM

GREENEVILLE  — A Kingsport crack cocaine dealer who attempted to murder his own son was sentenced this week to more than 27 years in federal prison on drug, firearms and witness intimidation charges.

James “Boogie” Simonton, 51, received a 330-month sentence in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Wednesday. Following a three-day trial in March 2018, a jury convicted Simonton 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

Simonton, who faced 15 years to life in prison, will have to serve the entire sentence since there is no parole in the federal system. Simonton attempted, but ultimately failed, to garner a new trial, claiming the outbursts of two government witnesses made him appear to be a violent ringleader capable of exacting revenge from prison.

EVIDENCE AT TRIAL

According to evidence presented at trial, an investigation of Simonton began when two young men with gunshot wounds came to Indian Path Medical Center in May of 2016. One of the victims was Simonton’s son: James Simonton III.

Detectives soon after determined that Simonton was a suspect. When officers went to his residence, they found a Glock pistol with an extended magazine, which the ATF traced to his neighbor.  Prosecutors said the firearm had been purchased at Academy Sports in Johnson City.

The retailer provided surveillance video, which showed that Simonton had been present during the purchase of the firearm. Joni Galyon of Kingsport had actually purchased the firearm for him. She pleaded guilty to doing so in December 2016 and was sentenced to three years probation last March due to her “substantial assistance” in the investigation.

As the investigation progressed, two co-defendants, one of whom was another son of Simonton, were arrested in possession of crack cocaine.

That led to information about Simonton being involved in trafficking crack cocaine from a source in Georgia into Sullivan County. Ultimately, the investigation successfully uncovered the firearm used in the shooting of the two young men: an AK63 (7.6-caliber rifle).

After Simonton’s arrest, and while he was in federal custody, prosecutors say he threatened a cooperating witness against him in an effort to influence that person’s testimony.

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