Jurors find street drug seller guilty

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

Guilty on all charges was the verdict Tuesday for a man described as "right near the top" of an organized street gang involved in the distribution of crack cocaine in Lewisburg.

Ray Anthony Ussery, 55, of Silver Creek Road, was charged in a five-count indictment with sale and delivery of less than 0.5 grams of crack cocaine, possession with intent to sell more than 0.5 grams of crack cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and resisting arrest. All the charges arose from events that took place on Jan. 5.

Ussery's bond was revoked and he was sent to Marshall County Jail. He is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Dec. 7, according to Marshall County Circuit Court Clerk Elinor Brandon Foster.

Ussery's trial started Thursday and continued all day Friday. Testimony continued for a short time Tuesday morning before the jury heard closing arguments and Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler's instructions and retired to consider their verdict.

Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard built the case against Ussery, patiently taking witnesses through testimony describing the events leading up to Ussery's arrest on Jan. 5

Friday afternoon, Agent Shane George of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force described the struggle when Ussery was taken into custody. A confidential informant working for the Task Force had purchased crack from Ussery. Agents observed and recorded it. Then, they followed Ussery and his driver to a home on Jackson Avenue, and decided to arrest him there.

Ussery fled into the residence with George hot on his heels, and the two men wrestled in the confined space of the bedroom, with Ussery struggling to reach something in his belt.

With the help of Agent Tim Miller, George testified, the arrest was finally made.

After Ussery was outside the home, George went back in and found a vial of crack on the floor, close to the spot where the struggle started.

When Lewisburg Police Officer John Christmas searched Ussery outside, he found two lock-back knives in his belt, right in the area he had been attempting to reach. The search also discovered the $60 cash Ussery had just received from the confidential informant, and some drug paraphernalia: half of a pair of tweezers, a spoon, and some brass wool.

"Why didn't you arrest him at the location of the sale?" asked defense attorney Ed Swinger.

George explained that he did not want to incriminate the confidential informant, and went on to state, "I know that your client is a crack cocaine dealer. All he does for money is sell crack cocaine. He's been doing it for 20-plus years."

"He doesn't want to change his ways," George continued. "We don't foresee him ever cooperating with law enforcement. They (the gang) are confident he's not going to squeal on them."

Also Friday afternoon, witnesses from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation laboratory testified that the "rock-like substance" recovered from the confidential informant and from the floor of the home where Ussery was arrested was crack cocaine, and stated the weight of both samples.

Tuesday, the defense presented no witnesses, and Ussery did not testify, so Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler read his instructions to the jury, and then asked for closing arguments.

"I don't care what his motive is," said Barnard. "If he sells dope, he's a dope dealer. The state asks you to find him guilty of all the indicted offenses. You have the proof, ladies and gentlemen."

For the defense, Swinger emphasized reasonable doubt, and pointed out the lack of cell phone records linking Ussery to his alleged clients, as well as the lack of Ussery's voice on the tape recording of the sale, for which there was no video.

"If any of this creates reasonable doubt, "Swinger said, "You have to find him not guilty. He's an addict, not a seller."