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Courthouse moves to SW Va. regional jail to handle arraignments for record drug sweep

WALTER LITTRELL • Jan 16, 2007 at 11:30 AM

JONESVILLE - Lee County authorities had to move the courthouse to the jailhouse Tuesday following last week's record roundup of alleged drug dealers.

Police from various agencies pooled resources Thursday in the first wave of a roundup that authorities hope will involve 111 suspects who are charged with a total of 262 separate offenses, mostly the alleged distribution of various drugs. More than 75 individuals were brought in by Thursday afternoon, with others located and charged that night or over the long holiday weekend.

Sheriff Gary Parsons said approximately 80 percent of those arrested in Operation STAND (Standing Together Against Narcotic Drugs) were held in jail over the weekend, many without bond. The sheriff added that due to the large number of suspects, jail officials had to shuffle inmates to other regional jail facilities in Haysi and Abingdon to make room for the influx from Lee County.

Commonwealth's Attorney Shawn Hines said Judge Birg Sergent and employees of the circuit court clerk's office had to travel to the regional jail in Duffield on Thursday to arraign those who had no bond or could not make bond. The court was also expected to appoint attorneys for those who qualify for court-appointed representation, he said.

"I expect before the week is out the lawyers will be making motions for bond and will probably immediately start setting trial dates. I expect the first trial dates to be within the next month and a half or two months," said the prosecutor.

Parsons said his office is ready to begin the prosecutions, and he expects the convictions to be fairly easy.

"We're ready to proceed with all these cases. The officers have worked diligently on each case, and I feel good about the evidence. I hope they all go to trial soon," he said.

The sheriff said between those arrested Thursday and those still to be arrested, nearly two dozen are expected to be out of state, and their names have been entered into the National Criminal Information Computer database. Three others are in custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections. Detainers have been served on those three, said Maj. Jimmy Woodard of the Lee County Sheriff's Department. Three others were arrested prior to Thursday's roundup, and only three or four are still being sought in Lee County.

Those arrested late Thursday or over the weekend and their charges include:

•Ernest Lee Davis, 29, Pennington Gap, two counts distribution.

•Christy Wilder, 26, Jonesville, possession of a Schedule II drug.

•Rex Rocky Livesay, 33, Rose Hill, two counts distribution of marijuana.

•Joseph R. Brooks, 43, Pennington Gap, one count distribution.

Parsons said his department will continue to search for the remainder of those charged until all are located and served. He further encourages anyone with information regarding illegal drug activity to contact his office. Information can be taken in confidence, he said.

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