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Hawkins man gets maximum sentence for drug trafficking

February 26th, 2008 12:00 am by Jeff Bobo

ROGERSVILLE — Ronnie Edward “Cotton” Seals received the maximum 20-year sentence Tuesday from Circuit Judge John Dugger stemming from a conviction earlier this month in his trial for narcotics trafficking.

On Feb. 14, a Hawkins County jury found Seals, 52, 198 Bray Road, Surgoinsville, guilty on charges including four counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, maintaining a dwelling where drugs are sold, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The charges stemmed from a Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office raid on Seals’ residence on Feb. 1, 2007, in which 230 grams of cocaine, 2 ounces of marijuana, 14 hydrocodone pills, five Valiums and $3,300 in cash were seized. The jury didn’t believe Seals’ explanation that the drugs were for personal use.

On Feb. 14, the jury levied the maximum fine of $307,500 against Seals, and his sentencing was set for Tuesday.

Dugger said during the sentencing Tuesday that because the jury felt compelled to levy the maximum fine, he felt it was appropriate to levy the maximum sentence as well. Whereas multiple drug convictions from the same case are often run concurrently, Dugger instead opted to run run Seals’ sentences consecutively for a total of 20 years.

Dugger characterized Seals as a “professional criminal” with no other visible means of income aside from narcotics trafficking.

Dugger noted that Seals’ presentencing report indicated he had no job, yet he had the cash, a motor home, a camera surveillance system, and he was building a new house.

And this won’t be the last time Seals comes before Dugger. Following his arrest on Feb. 1, 2007, Seals was arrested twice while free on bail on two other major cases pending in Hawkins County — one in late February 2007 on cocaine trafficking and gun charges, and again in May on a cocaine trafficking charge. His next trial has been set for June.

Aside from Seals’ sentencing, Dugger heard several guilty pleas Tuesday including:

•Timmy Dean Byrd, 40, of Knoxville, who was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $390,594.98 in restitution to Contour Industries in exchange for guilty pleas to three counts of theft over $60,000 and money laundering. Byrd, a former employee of Contour Industries, was arrested last year for embezzling money from the company.

•Russell Gary Beckwith, 30, of Mount Carmel, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in exchange for guilty pleas to two counts of attempted especially aggravated kidnapping. Beckwith was arrested in Mount Carmel last May when, under the influence of drugs, he held his girlfriend and her infant child hostage at gunpoint, claiming his girlfriend had betrayed him and Hell’s Angels were after him.

Beckwith subsequently received a mental evaluation and was found fit to stand trial.

•Edd D. Bray, 51, of Knoxville, who was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay an unspecified amount of restitution for arson.

•Randall Sean Taylor, 29, who was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $1,850 for six counts of forgery.

•Mary Ann Ferrell-Bundren, 43, of Rogersville, who was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $4,650 in restitution for theft over $500, simple possession of morphine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

•Lisa Ann Kuhn, 45, who was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $1,800 for violation of the Habitual Motor Offender Act, unauthorized use of an automobile, DUI and simple possession of Schedule IV narcotics.

•James Wesley Williams, 29, who was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $4,857.50 in restitution for two counts of theft over $500.

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