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VOL. 128 | NO. 243 | Friday, December 13, 2013

Riverside Drug Arrests Linked to Nashville Case

By Bill Dries

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For two years, Memphis police mounted an investigation in the Riverside section of South Memphis against a long-running drug organization allegedly headed by Kenneth and Keith Bohanon.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Department personnel post closure orders on gang turf in the Riverside area of South Memphis.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Bohanon is a familiar name in the Riverside area, which is so heavily dominated by gangs that it is now subject to the city’s first-ever “no gang zone” civil court order.

As Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong announced the indictment Wednesday, Dec. 11, of the Bohanons and 28 others on drug racketeering and conspiracy charges, he recalled his own days working drug cases as part of the police Organized Crime Unit.

“Even from my days in Organized Crime and the days that I personally worked undercover … these were names that were floating around even back then,” he said of the Bohanons. “I haven’t worked undercover in quite some time, haven’t been in Organized Crime in some time. But it was fascinating to me to see that here we are at the end of 2013, start of 2014, and these are people that are still actively involved in the drug trade in our city. It was rewarding to me to see that we finally got it right.”

The Bohanons also intersected with Riverside’s best-known drug kingpin, Craig Petties, according to Armstrong and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

The drug organization they allegedly headed was supplied by Petties’ multistate drug trafficking organization, which had direct ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

Keith Bohanon pleaded guilty in 2001 to a single federal charge of drug dealing.

In November 2002, U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla apparently sentenced Bohanon, but the court sealed the “judgment.”

Less than a year later, Bohanon wasn’t in prison, because he was stopped by a Memphis Police officer in October 2003. The officer found 0.6 grams of cocaine in his sock, according to a report by Bohanon’s federal probation officer that is part of the public court file on the federal case.

While Bohanon was in the police patrol car, Bohanon allegedly pulled the officer into the back seat and began hitting him and trying to take the officer’s gun. Bohanon broke away and ran, but was arrested a month later by Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies on a drug and aggravated assault warrant. He was released on $25,000 bond.

Because of that warrant and arrest, Bohanon was back in federal court in February 2004 for violating the terms of his supervised release and was imprisoned for just less than a year before McCalla sentenced him to five years in prison for the supervised release violations.

In September, federal prosecutors in Nashville requested that McCalla open Bohanon’s sealed pre-sentence report. Nashville Federal Judge John Nixon wanted to review it “in camera” or privately because Bohanon was scheduled to testify there as a witness for the government in the case of Jamal Shakir.

Shakir oversaw drug operations for the Rollin’ 90s Crips in Nashville, as well as in Memphis, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. In 2008, the federal jury in Nashville convicted Shakir of 34 counts that included the violent deaths of nine people in four years in Cheatham County, Tenn., Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

Federal prosecutors sought the federal death penalty, but the jury deadlocked on imposing it.

While Shakir was awaiting sentencing, he plotted an escape from prison that authorities uncovered.

In December 2009, Shakir was sentenced to 24 life terms in prison.

Kenneth Bohanon was indicted in May 2000 on six federal counts of drug dealing. He pleaded guilty the following year to all six counts. He was sentenced in 2003 to three years in federal prison.

The state case announced Wednesday marks the first use in Shelby County of a state organized crime/racketeering statute that carries a 12- to 20-year sentence. It’s also the first use in Shelby County of a state statute that requires those convicted on charges of conspiracy to sell drugs in a school zone to serve all of their sentence in prison, without probation, parole or time off for good behavior. There are three schools in the area.

Of the 30 defendants, 10 are charged with conspiracy to sell drugs in a school zone.

“Of the 10, they represent basically the dealers, the workers that helped keep this illegal business afloat,” Weirich said. “The other 20 were basically the major customers of those 10.”

The “no gang zone” court order announced in September names specific citizens identified as members of the Rollin’ 90s Crips who are forbidden from even congregating with other gang members in public, being on the streets in the area after certain hours or showing indications of gang affiliations.

“This is separate and apart from that civil injunction,” Weirich said of the criminal charges. “But, of course, it’s also very much connected in the real world.”

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