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Federal drug trial continued to January

PIKEVILLE – A jury trial has been continued until January for two Magoffin County men facing federal drug charges.

The attorney for Gregory Howard, 51, of Salyersville, motioned last month for the jury trial against him to be continued by 60 to 90 days, noting that the discovery files from the government required a 124 GB jump drive. Attorney Steve Owens explained in his motion that due to the volume of the files presented in discovery and because part of the discovery was on a damaged disk (which the government will replace, but just adds time to their review), they would need additional time beyond the originally scheduled November 27 jury trial date to review the discovery and to explore the possibility of a plea.

The court has approved the motion, continuing the trial against Howard and his co-defendant, Jesse Murrell, 53, also of Salyersville, to January 29, 2024, at 9 a.m. before Judge Karen K. Caldwell in Pikeville, Kentucky.

As some background in the case, on Thursday, August 24, a federal grand jury in Pikeville handed down a 17-count indictment against Gregory Howard, 51, and Jesse Murrell Jr., 53, both of Salyersville.

The indictment alleged the two men conspired together to distribute a quantity of pills containing oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance from March 2022 through August 17, 2023.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Howard is facing 13 distribution of controlled substances containing oxycodone and Murrell is charged with three counts of the same charge, all from specific dates surrounding individual controlled buys that occurred in May through August this year.

Murrell was arrested on August 28 by the Magoffin County Sheriff’s Office and was taken to the Pike County Detention Center, though he has since been released per the outcome of his detention hearing.

Howard ran from police during the initial August 17 raid and was not taken into custody until September 19. He is required to forfeit $37,710, which was already seized from him during two different events dated March 24, 2022, and August 17, 2023. At press time, he remains in custody at the Pike County Detention Center, having waived his right for a detention hearing during his arraignment.

Each of the 17 charges included in the indictment carry a potential penalty of not more than 20 years imprisonment, not more than a $1 million fine, and at least three years supervised release. If a defendant has a prior felony drug offense, which Greg Howard does, the penalty raises to not more than 30 years imprisonment, not more than a $2 million fine, and at least 6 years supervised release.

At the time of the indictment, Greg Howard was on probation for a 2017 conviction on the charge of possession with intent to distribute a quantity of pills containing hydrocodone. In December 2017, Howard was sentenced (via a plea deal) to 36 months in prison, running concurrently with the 12 months he received for violating probation in his 2013 federal drug case, as well as six years of probation, running concurrently with three years he received for violating his probation in the earlier case.

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.

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