Prosecutors Weigh Cooperation Against Murder

By Bill Dries

For a second time, prosecutors in the largest drug case ever brought into Memphis federal court have decided not to recommend a reduction in the sentence of a high-ranking member of the Craig Petties drug organization who cooperated to some extent.

Vacha Vaughn was sentenced Friday, Feb. 8, to 36 years and six months in prison on a federal drug conspiracy conviction.

He is the fourth defendant to be sentenced by Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays.

Vaughn’s position in the violent multi-state drug organization with direct ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico was unique.

He was shot and robbed by men dressed as police officers in 2004, which prompted the organization to order the murder of Latrell Small who was shot to death in 2004 along with Kalonji Griffin by Clarence Broady, a “contract killer” for the organization.

Broady testified about the killings during last year’s federal court trial of Martin Lewis and Clinton Lewis, the only two of those charged in the case who did not plead guilty. They were both convicted of federal racketeering and drug conspiracy as well as murder for hire charges and are awaiting sentencing.

Three years after the revenge killings, Vaughn was suspected of cooperating with federal authorities investigating the organization and was ordered killed, but the murder was not carried out.

Vaughn, meanwhile, played a role in the 2006 kidnapping of Marcus Turner, who was shot to death and his body dumped by the side of a road in Olive Branch after he had been held for several days at various locations around Memphis.

Petties, who ran the drug organization for six years from Mexico after fleeing Memphis in 2002 as investigators closed in, ordered Turner abducted. The organization was trying to find out who stole $4 million worth of cocaine.

Petties, according to testimony from several witnesses during the Lewises trial, eventually concluded Turner knew nothing about the theft but ordered him killed anyway because he knew too much about the organization.

Vaughn has maintained that while he delivered Turner to those in the organization who later killed him, he didn’t know they intended to kill him.

“All I seen was guns and I got out of there,” Vaughn testified last March.

He was the last witness of the trial and he testified for the defense as attorneys for Clinton Lewis sought to shake his story that it was Lewis, with his gun pointed at Turner, who took Turner from him after Vaughn set up a meeting.