United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Christopher R. Thyer announced a federal jury found James Edward Watson Jr., 30, of Osceola guilty Tuesday.
Due to the nature of the charge and his criminal history, Watson will serve a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.
Watson will be sentenced at a later date.
On Aug. 11, 2015, Watson and 69 other suspects were arrested in a roundup to curb drug trafficking and gun violence in Blytheville and Mississippi County.
The operation, which began in 2013, targeted violent and repeat drug and gun offenders. It resulted in 40 separate federal indictments.
Four more suspects were arrested after the initial roundup also. They were indicted on drug charges in the overall case.
"A coordinated effort from multiple law enforcement agencies successfully removed dozens of violent and dangerous drug dealers from the streets of Mississippi County 13 months ago, but the work of protecting these communities continues," Thyer said. "Mr. Watson was a repeat offender who had committed violent acts in the past. Just as the other defendants arrested in Blynd Justus will learn, Mr. Watson now knows that his criminal actions only led to prison time."
On Aug. 29, 2014, Watson sold 84 grams of methamphetamine to a confidential informant in Blytheville for $3,000, according to the press release.
Watson also sold the informant 113 grams of counterfeit methamphetamine in September 2014.
Watson was the first defendant in Operation Blynd Justus to go to trial, but he is not the first to be convicted.
Twenty-seven of the suspects have pleaded guilty. Many of those defendants will be sentenced in January.
The remaining defendants have trials scheduled.
Of those who have already pleaded guilty, eight of them have been sentenced:
- James Walton sentenced to 10 years?
- Markese Durden sentenced to 10 years
- John Franklin sentenced to 7 years and 3 months
- Darius Goodman sentenced to 7 years and 3 months
- Juan Pineda sentenced to 5 years
- Dexter Anderson sentenced to 4 years
- Jarvis Reed sentenced to 2 years and 6 months
- Harmanjeet Khatrao sentenced to 5 months
The others who pleaded guilty are awaiting sentencing.
According to Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson, violent crime went down in six key areas charted by law enforcement after the roundup.
In the six months following the operation, Blytheville saw incidents of aggravated assault, robbery, larceny, motor vehicle theft, rape, and murder all decrease as compared to the six months prior, according to the press release.
"The goal of Blynd Justus was to help an ailing community combat drugs and violence, remove dangerous people from the streets, and help the great citizens of Northeast Arkansas sleep a little easier at night," Thyer said. "While we will never eradicate all crime, Blynd Justus serves as a continuing reminder to criminals that you will spend time in prison if you choose to poison and terrorize these communities."
Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.