Jury finds Katrina evacuee guilty of organized crime
Polk County Enterprise - January 2008
LIVINGSTON—A Polk County jury deliberated only 15 minutes Wednesday before reaching a guilty verdict in the trial of a Livingston man charged with the first degree felony of engaging in organized criminal activity.
Joseph Oneal George, 23, and formerly of New Orleans, Louisiana, had been previously indicted by a Polk County Grand Jury for collaborating with Felicia McGowen, Joey Franklin, Edmund Mays and Carl Stanley Williams in the manufacture of crack cocaine at a residence located in the Ridgecrest Apartments, 901 Forest Hollow in Livingston.
Testimony at trial established that on June 18, 2007, Livingston Police Detective Matt Parrish received information that crack cocaine was being "cooked" in Ridgecrest Apt. 122 and that three subjects had left the apartment complex with the cocaine in a gray Dodge Stratus en route to the "west end" area of Livingston.
Within minutes of the report, Livingston Police Corporal Leon Middleton conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle and, with the assistance of other officers, recovered about 142 grams of freshly manufactured
Crack cocaine in a backpack found inside of the vehicle. The cocaine had an estimated street value of over $14,000. Following Middleton's discovery of the contraband, Detective Parrish obtained a search warrant for the apartment and conducted a search of the location with the assistance of other Livingston Police officers and Polk County Sheriff's deputies.
George and McGowen were arrested at the scene when officers discovered numerous items of drug manufacturing paraphernalia including various bowls, measuring cups, stirring items, all of which displayed apparent cocaine residue.
The trial, which commenced with jury selection on Monday, was conducted before visiting District Judge David Wilson.
George, who had previously elected to have his punishment assessed by the judge if found guilty, will be sentenced by Wilson at a sentencing hearing currently scheduled for March 12.
George, who has one previous felony drug conviction from Harris County, faces a punishment range of 5 to 99 years or life imprisonment and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon, who prosecuted the case, stated that he was pleased with the jury verdict and commended officers with the Livingston Police Department and Polk County Sheriff's Department for their efforts in the investigation.
"I don't think our local police and sheriff's officers get nearly enough credit for their efforts in combating the distribution of illegal drugs in our county" Hon said. "By their very nature, most narcotics investigations have to be conducted covertly and outside of the public view" Hon added.
"This was a significant case and this verdict would not have been possible without the dedicated and professional actions of these officers" Hon concluded. Charges remain pending against McGowen, Franklin, Mays and Williams.