Sentencing to be held next week in federal drug case

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LEXINGTON – A Magoffin County man is set for sentencing in a federal drug case next week.

Gregory Howard, 45, of Salyersville, was arrested in March after a reported federal drug bust, with his probation officer petitioning the court to revoke his probation, citing four violations described as “commission of a crime – distribution of oxycodone.” The petition was granted by the court and a warrant of arrest was issued on the same day.

On May 25 a federal grand jury released an indictment, charging Howard with five counts alleging he distributed quantities of oxycodone and possessed hydrocodone with the intent to distribute on various days in February and March.

In August, via a plea agreement, Howard pleaded guilty to Count 5 of the indictment, a charge of possession with intent to distribute a quantity of pills containing hydrocodone.

Assistant United States Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. stated in the plea agreement that at sentencing the U.S. will ask the court to dismiss the other four counts. He stated that the government could prove law enforcement, using a confidential informant, made controlled purchases of eight oxycodone pills from Howard at his grocery/convenience store in Magoffin County on February 7, 14, 17 and 22, 2017. He said they could also prove that on March 3 law enforcement executed a search warrant at the store and seized several hundred pills, including 442 oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, as well as unspecified quantities of Xanax and Neurontin. 

Duncan states that Howard confessed during a Mirandized interview to distributing prescription pills. He also said Howard agrees to forfeit $14,000, a sum representing the gross proceeds obtained by Howard from the alleged drug sales.

The statutory punishment for his charge is imprisonment for not more than 30 years, a fine of not more than $2 million, and a term of supervised release of not less than 6 years. A mandatory special assessment of $100 applies. Given he was on probation for a prior felony drug conviction, he is also subject to enhanced statutory punishment, though the plea agreement stipulates that the U.S. will move at sentencing to decrease Howard’s offense level based on his timely notice of intent to plead guilty.

Duncan noted in the plea agreement that no agreement exists about Howard’s criminal history category. By accepting the agreement, he waives his right to appeal.

Howard is scheduled for sentencing on December 5 at 11 a.m. in Lexington. At press time, he is currently being held at the Grayson County Jail.

Howard’s attorney, Frederick J. Anderson, filed a sentencing memorandum on Tuesday, November 28, in which he included 14 letters from family, friends, associates and neighbors, asking for leniency. Letters from William Helton, Rodney Ward, Pat Montgomery, Bryan Montgomery, K. Howard (Lick Creek resident, name illegible), John Montgomery (of Lakeville), Pastor Johnny Reed, Amanda Howard (his wife), Charlotte Howard and Patty Jo Howard.

Editor's Note: The indictment or charge of a person by a grand jury or otherwise is an accusation only and that person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.