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Pennington Gap police officer indicted on drug charges

Wes Bunch • Nov 29, 2012 at 11:41 AM

ABINGDON — For the second time in over a month, an officer with the Pennington Gap Police Department was indicted by a federal grand jury on drug distribution charges.

John Charles Kelly, 38, of Pennington Gap, was indicted in Abingdon Wednesday on a single count of distributing Percocet between March and June 2012 and one count of distributing Lortab between July and September 2012.

Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons said the charges resulted from incidents that happened while Kelly was on duty. Parsons declined to offer further details on the case due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

“I can say that it was related to instances that occurred in the town of Pennington and they were duty related,” Parsons said. “It is my understanding that the investigation does continue. I know they are still interviewing people, but I can’t say what will develop out of that.”

Kelly was arraigned Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Abingdon and released on bond, subject to the condition that he not be employed by the Pennington Gap Police Department, federal authorities said.

Parsons said town officials have taken immediate action to formally suspend Kelly from duty.

If convicted, Kelly faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000 on the distribution of Lortab charge and 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $1 million on the distribution of Percocet charge.

The charges against Kelly come just over a month after former Pennington Gap Police Chief William Bryan Young was arrested on drug and robbery charges following a two-year investigation by local, state and federal authorities.

Authorities did not say if Kelly’s arrest was linked to the allegations against Young. Calls to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia seeking further information were not immediately returned.

Young has been held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon since he was taken into custody Oct. 19 by federal authorities.

Young and three other individuals — including his brother Kevin Andrew Young — were indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 31 for allegedly engaging in drug activity and for their alleged roles in the Sept. 28 burglary of the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Pennington Gap. More than 5,400 prescription pills were reportedly stolen during the break-in.

Because of Young’s arrest, the Pennington Gap Town Council voted Nov. 19 to turn over total control of the town’s police to Parsons on a temporary basis. That arrangement went into effect this Monday.

Parsons said he was made aware of the pending indictments prior to taking control of the department.

“I knew that this was coming,” Parsons said. “I had discussed it with them when I took over the department to make sure they felt comfortable with me allowing (Kelly) to continue to work until the indictment was returned.”

Kelly’s arrest resulted from a joint investigation carried out by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Virginia State Police, the Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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