OFF THE WIRE
A trial in federal court has resulted in the conviction of a member of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club. Johnny Blake Clanton, 33, of Foley, was convicted of a gun charge alleging that he was a user of an illegal drug in possession of a firearm. That count carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $250,000, and a term of supervised release of three years. The trial, which began before United States District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade on Monday, concluded yesterday when the jury returned the verdicts shortly before 5:00 p.m.
Also convicted was Loverne Bollwage Blackledge, 47, of Gulf Shores. Blackledge was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, and two counts alleging that she used a cell phone to facilitate the commission of the marijuana distribution conspiracy, charges for which Clanton was acquitted. She faces a penalty of not more than 20 years imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $2,000,000, and a supervised release term of three years.
Evidence from the trial established that Clanton’s affiliation with the Outlaw Motorcycle Club resulted in his introduction to and association with other members ofthe marijuana distribution conspiracy. Blackledge was followed from Affordable Auto Repair on County Road 12 in Foley, and was stopped in her truck on Highway 59 during April of 2011 by the Foley Police Department and found in possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The business owner, James Spencer, his daughter Crystle Enochs, and his wife Theresa Spencer all entered guilty pleas to the conspiracy charge. Orlando Munoz, a resident of Gulf Shores, also pled guilty to the conspiracy charge, as did Dale Tanner, a resident of Pensacola, and Francisco Leos Castro and Ricardo Hernandez-Hernandez, both residents of Mexico and illegally present in the United States.
The trial evidence established that Spencer and Tanner were partners in the drug business, as Spencer had connections through whom the drugs were distributed and Tanner had connections with Castro and Hernandez, who supplied the drugs. The investigation culminated in the execution of arrest warrants and search warrants during early May of 20 11, and the federal indictment was returned later that month. A search of Clanton’s residence yielded an extensive assortment of marijuana smoking paraphernalia, user amounts of the drug itself, and three guns. Judge Granade directed a verdict of acquittal as to one defendant, Joel Charles Anthenat, shortly before the prosecution rested its case on Wednesday. She set sentencing dates for Clanton and Blackledge in February of 2012.
United States Attorney Kenyen R. Brown stated, “I commend federal, state, and local law enforcement, most especially the FBI, for the excellent collaborative investigative work that was performed in this case, which resulted in the conviction of these thugs. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with law enforcement in an effort to disrupt and dismantle gangs and organized crime in this area.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Lewis M. Chapman stated, “[T]hese convictions, along with the previous nine plea agreements could not have been accomplished without the strong support and teamwork of all of the participating law enforcement agencies. This represents a victory for our citizens and sends a strong message that organized gang and drug activity will not be tolerated.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation, the Foley Police Department, the Mobile County Sheriffs Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Baldwin County Sheriffs Office, Fairhope Police Department, Alabama Port Authority, Gulf Shores Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Escambia County (Florida) Sheriffs Office, and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gloria Bedwell.