Sparkman convicted of selling cocaine

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Marshall County jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes before returning a guilty verdict at the end of a one-day trial last week.

The jury of seven men and five women found Hudell Sparkman, 49, guilty of possession with intent to sell and deliver more than 0.5 grams of crack cocaine.

This is Sparkman's second trial in Marshall County this year. He was tried for the same offence on April 27, but on that occasion Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler had to declare a mistrial after the jury announced itself to be hopelessly deadlocked. The April jury was willing to agree that Sparkman had possessed 22.9 grams of crack cocaine, but not that he intended to sell and deliver it.

At the trial last Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard presented testimony from Timothy Lane, head of the 17th Judicial District Task Force, that this quantity of crack could be broken into up to about 115 "user amounts," and thus had a street value of over $2,300.

The jury also heard from Tim Miller, Deputy Director of the 17th JDTF, that the task force had been tipped off by a confidential informant who told them Sparkman was taking the drug from Columbia to sell in Fayetteville. The traffic stop was made on southbound I-65 in Marshall County on Sept 30, 2005. Sparkman admitted to officers that the cocaine was his, and was willing to cooperate with law enforcement to try and find the dealer from whom he had bought the drugs. The search was unsuccessful, and Sparkman was arrested and booked into Marshall County Jail.

Sparkman was indicted by the Marshall County Grand Jury in May of 2006, but his whereabouts were unknown to our court system until he filed a petition in October 2008 to have the case dismissed for non-prosecution.

The petition was filed from the Hardeman County Correctional Facility, where Sparkman is serving time for a 1999 Maury County conviction on drug charges. He had been released on parole in April 2005. His full sentence runs until December 2018.

Sparkman's defense team of William F. Harold and Stephanie Barca, from the Public Defender's office, tried to convince the jury that "just because you buy a large amount of drugs doesn't mean you're a dealer."

"It's simple possession," Harold said. "Find him guilty of that."

They also tried to cast doubt on the confidential informant, calling her an "opportunist" and asserting, "She's using the Task Force like an ATM machine."

The jury, however, was inclined to agree with Barnard's "strong case," which he summed up by saying, "We've got him screwed to the floor."

Judge Crigler set Sparkman's sentencing for Sept. 23.