‘Crack ring leader’ sentenced to 24 years in prison|[02/27/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A man once described by Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett as the leader of the No. 1 crack cocaine distribution ring in Vicksburg was sentenced Tuesday to more than 24 years in federal prison.

Michael Tyler, 35, who was arrested as part of a June multi-agency drug sweep and pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, received a 292-month sentence from U.S. District Judge David Bramlette at the Federal Courthouse in Natchez, a spokesman in Bramlette’s office said this morning. The judge attributed the lengthy punishment to Tyler’s criminal history and his admitting that he led the criminal enterprise.

Bramlette also ordered that Tyler’s prison term be followed by five years of post-release supervision and that he be fined $1,500. Tyler could have been sentenced to life in prison.

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Chief Moffett, who has said he believed the group was selling more than 8 kilos, or 17.6 pounds, of crack cocaine in Vicksburg each week, attended Tuesday’s sentencing.

“I know this sentence sounds like a lot,” he said. “But really, 24 years of his life is quite lenient when compared to the many lives he’s ruined over the years.”

Moffett said he had known of Tyler since taking over as chief in Vicksburg. During his six years and four months in Vicksburg, Moffett said he had talked to Tyler personally on the streets.”I had seen his cockiness and arrogance and how untouchable he thought he was, and today I saw him cry in court,” the chief said Tuesday night.

Moffett also noted that he wanted the heavy punishment to be a cautionary tale for others dealing drugs.

“I know young criminals think they’re untouchable, but this should make those people see that we still have a legal system that works.”

Tyler initially was to be sentenced Jan. 8, but a delay was granted after the death of his previous attorney, William Barnett of Jackson. Michael Knapp of Jackson took over Tyler’s case. Neither Knapp nor prosecutors Sandra Moses or Darren LaMarca could be reached for comment.

Tyler was one of nine defendants facing federal indictments from the June drug bust. Others who have been sentenced are Christpoher Shaun Walker, 29; Tommie Shepherd, 46; and Larry Jones, 31. All three pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute and were sentenced by Bramlette to serve five years in prison. They faced potential sentences of 20 years.

Kenny Tyler, the 35-year-old brother of Michael Tyler; Keafur Wallace, 25; and Cadie Mae Bunch, 28, are scheduled to be sentenced March 18. All three, like Michael Tyler, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Charles Price, 53, once scheduled to be handed his sentence that same day, will appear in court April 17.

The only defendant to request a trial was John Dillard, 61, who is charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. His trial is scheduled for next week.

All, except Bunch and Dillard, had previous felony convictions.