Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 3, 2012

Drug defendants held pending trial

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — A federal judge has ordered two of the seven defendants charged recently in an alleged pill-trafficking conspiracy held without bond pending trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins ruled following a detention hearing last week that there were no conditions the court could impose on Rico D. Tillman and Leonard E. Vaughn that would allow them to remain free and would also “reasonably assure the safety of any other and the community.”

Atkins found both men’s criminal backgrounds made them poor candidates for pre-trial release. In particular, the judge noted, Vaughn’s record included convictions for fleeing and evading police, third-degree escape and probation violation.

“(Vaughn’s) criminal history evidences a refusal to comply with court-imposed sanctions while on release,” Atkins wrote.

Without that history, though, Vaughn might have been a good candidate for release because he has ties to both Ashland and Lexington, and because he turned himself in and appeared voluntarily for arraignment, Atkins wrote.

While finding credibility in the testimony of Tillman’s mother, stepfather and employer that they would be responsible for the defendant, Atkins found that despite their assurances, they could not guarantee the community and others would remain safe if Tillman was released.

The judge said it was notable Tillman’s criminal history included convictions for assault, burglary, drug trafficking and domestic violence, and that he had twice violated the conditions of home confinement by testing positive for drugs.

Tilliman, 30, of Ashland, was arrested Feb. 27 while driving a vehicle owned by another of the defendants in the case, Charlie N. Angell, 25, of Ashland, whom court records identify as the former girlfriend of Richard A. “Rick” Young, of Fort Myers, Fla., the man whom authorities believe was a major supplier of pills to local traffickers.

At the time of his arrest, Tillman had in his possession oxycodone and Xanax tablets and $2,800 cash. Officers also found a purse containing 57 grams or cocaine, $5,000 cash and a loaded .45-caliber handgun in the passenger-side floorboard of the vehicle.

Detention hearings also were to have to been held last week for Angell and another defendant in the case, Hammond Coleman, 31, of Hurricane, W.Va., but those were continued at the request of the defendants.

Vaughn, Tilliman, Angell and Hammond all are currently lodged in the Carter County Detention Center. In addition to Young, others charged in the six-count indictment returned last month in U.S. District Court were Darnell D. Butler of Ashland and Christina Mayhone of Huntington.

Trial for all seven defendants is set for June 11. Each faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Authorities say Young had ties to a Boyd County-based pill-trafficking operation headed by Anthony “Tony” McKenzie and his brother, Billy. Tony McKenzie was arrested in September 2010. He and his brother subsequently pleaded guilty to federal charges and were sentenced to prison terms. Six others also pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.