A Providence man accused of leading a marijuana trafficking operation in Fall River and Providence has been sentenced to nearly two decades in a federal prison.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Jeremy Barnes, 36, was sentenced to 17½ years, to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $50,000 fine, for conspiracy to distribute at least 50 kilograms of marijuana and distribution of marijuana in March 2006. Barnes had previously pleaded guilty to the charges stemming from a joint investigation by federal and local authorities aimed at reducing large-scale drug dealing in southern Massachusetts and Providence.
Prosecutors described Barnes as the leader of a large-scale marijuana distribution operation who obtained marijuana and cocaine from co-conspirators in California and elsewhere.
According to the Department of Justice, Chief Judge Mark Wolf found that Barnes and his California co-conspirators transported tons of marijuana from California to New England via tractor-trailers, small trucks and express mail packages.
After finding Barnes responsible for distributing at least 2,700 kilograms of marijuana, worth millions of dollars, and cocaine, Wolf sentenced Barnes to 210 months in prison.
According to the Department of Justice, the Fall River, Tiverton and Bristol, R.I., police departments and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Providence field office played pivotal roles in the investigation.
E-mail Will Richmond at email@example.com.
Chantra Say is too dangerous to walk the streets of the city, a judge ruled Friday.
But his friend, Mary Huot, can go free because her brother promised to watch over her.
Say, 19, of Stevens Street, and Huot, 19, of Fordney Street, appeared before District Court Judge Lance Garth to fight the prosecution argument that they should be held in custody until they can be tried on charges of attempted murder.
Those two, plus Jessika Sardinha, 19, of Edgemont Street, are charged in connection with the shooting of Stephen Ponte, 20, and Stephen Howland, 20, both of Hartwell Street, at the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Rodman Street on July 1 at 11:35 p.m.
“They both present a danger to the citizens of Fall River,” prosecutor Carolyn Morrissette argued Friday during a dangerousness hearing held for Say and Huot. “The shooting was in a heavily travelled part of the city and there were several people about.
“The victims did suffer extensive injuries. Mr. Stephen Howland has a shattered femur. He will require surgery to repair it.”
Morrissette called one witness to the stand. Officer Thomas DeMello reported he was the first police officer to arrive at the shooting, pulling up just moments after it occurred when he saw three witnesses flag down his police cruiser.
Howland was lying on the ground outside the Shell gas station, bleeding from wounds. Ponte was inside with bystanders starting first aid, DeMello said.
Moments later, officers stopped a Geo Tracker on Hartwell Street and Say, Huot and Sardinha were arrested. Police say they also recovered a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol from the car, its clip empty, its slide locked back — something that happens when a semi-automatic pistol his fired until it is empty.
Police allege Sardinha borrowed her mother’s car and then drove Say and Huot to a parking lot behind the Shell station to let off another friend at Straight Shooters, a pool hall.
On their way there, they drove by Ponte and Howland, who were on foot, crossing Plymouth Avenue at Rodman Street. Say and the two men shouted at each other as they passed.
When Sardinha drove into the parking lot, Say and Huot got out of the Tracker and went through a fence into the Shell property.
Sardinha later told police she heard gunshots and drove away, pulling onto Plymouth Avenue north before turning around to drive south on Plymouth Avenue. She saw Say and Huot run across Plymouth Avenue, so she stopped to pick them up and then drove away until she was stopped.
James Powderly, the lawyer for Huot, said nothing in the prosecution case justified denying bail to Huot.
“There is nothing in her history to suggest she is a dangerous person,” Powderly argued. “Mere presence at the scene of the crime is not enough to prove joint venture.
“There is no evidence at all that Ms. Huot knew there was a gun in the car, knew there was going to be a shooting or did anything after the shooting other than to flee.”
All three co-defendants are charged with attempted murder, illegal possession of a gun and assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution alleges Say had the pistol when he got into the car and he was the only one to handle or fire the gun.
Ken Van Colen, Say’s lawyer, asked the court to release Say to home confinement while awaiting trial.
“There is more to this than just a random shooting,” Van Colen said. “Given that, are the people of Fall River in danger?”
The law requires prosecutors to begin trial within 90 days when a defendant is denied bail, but generally the court allows that time to be extended.
“The commonwealth is making a promise to the court that they will try my client within 90 days,” Van Colen said. “I have yet to see that happen in previous cases.”
Say was ordered held in custody pending trial. Huot was released to her brother’s custody but was ordered to report weekly to the Fall River police, refrain from drugs or alcohol and to observe a curfew of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Bail was previously set at $10,000 for Sardinha.
The case will be referred to a grand jury for prosecution in Superior Court. If prosecutors do not present the matter to a grand jury before Aug. 4, the case will return to District Court for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
A conviction on the charge of attempted murder with a gun carries a maximum sentence of 20 years with a 10 year minimum sentence.
E-mail Kevin P. O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.