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VOL. 128 | NO. 155 | Friday, August 9, 2013

Petties Associate Draws 15-Year Prison Term

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Chris Hamlet didn’t have to spend five years in a Mexican prison.

Federal drug agents in Memphis were interested in a prisoner swap with Mexican authorities to get the childhood friend of Memphis drug kingpin Craig Petties to and across the border.

Hamlet was part of the inner circle that started the violent multi-state drug organization and he fled with Petties to Mexico in 2002 where they were sheltered and worked directly with the Sinaloa drug cartel. He had information on murders Petties had ordered there and before they fled Memphis.

But Hamlet wouldn’t take the deal, according to a court document filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Wednesday, Aug. 7, by his attorney, Robert Parris.

He insisted Diedre Williams, his girlfriend, who was jailed with Hamlet in an adjoining prison complex, had to be part of the deal. And U.S. prosecutors would not agree to that.

“They were permitted occasional visitation. Mr. Hamlet maintains that those visits were what sustained them through their five-year imprisonment,” Parris wrote in his court filing, the day before Hamlet was sentenced to 15 years in prison. “Mr. Hamlet refused to leave Ms. Williams alone in Mexico and turned down the government’s offer for that reason.”

Hamlet was captured by Mexican authorities in 2007, just a few months before Petties was captured there.

But Petties was turned over to U.S. authorities after his capture in January 2008.

Hamlet was not. He served five years in a Mexican prison and was turned over to U.S. authorities at the border in December.

The five years in a Mexican prison figured prominently in the decision by prosecutors not to make a motion indicating Hamlet had provided “substantial cooperation” in their investigation.

By the time Hamlet was turned over to federal drug agents in Houston and then sent back to Memphis in custody, the drug case in local federal court had just about run its course.

Everybody indicted in the case except Clinton and Martin Lewis had pleaded guilty and the Lewises had been tried and convicted of drug and racketeering conspiracy as well as murder for hire charges that later netted each of them automatic life sentences.

Hamlet, according to court documents, began telling federal prosecutors about the murders Petties ordered in Memphis and then in exile in Mexico.

“While Mr. Hamlet’s cooperation was truthful, complete and helpful to law enforcement, his cooperation fell short of the substantial assistance standard of the United States Attorney’s office,” Parris wrote. “The insurmountable problem that Mr. Hamlet encountered … was that the information provided during his cooperation was stale due to his five-year incarceration in Mexico.”

– Bill Dries

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