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HomeNewsLocal newsAirport Worker Sentenced After Admitting Guilt for Drug Possession

Airport Worker Sentenced After Admitting Guilt for Drug Possession

Several months after being arrested, the defendant admitted he picked up a bag with cocaine in it and dropped it into a restroom trash can. (Source file photo)

A 23-year-old former airport worker is on his way to prison after pleading guilty to hauling 5 kilograms of cocaine into a restroom at the Cyril E. King Airport and dropping it into a trash can. Moments before he was sentenced on Friday, defendant Tyree Moton said he was out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic and he needed the money.

More than a dozen family members and friends filled the seats of Chief District Judge Robert Molloy’s courtroom for Morton’s sentencing. His lawyer persuaded the judge that while there were other people arrested and charged for their roles in the smuggling incident, Morton had no part in the larger drug conspiracy.

“He didn’t own the cocaine; he didn’t bring the cocaine. He didn’t effectuate the deal. He didn’t know where it was going to go,” said Federal Public Defender Matthew Campbell. “He was generally given a job to do and he did it.”

For the task he performed and was arrested for in February 2022, the defendant received $1,500. The judge pointed out that on two other occasions, Morton acted as a lookout while at the airport for others who were involved in drug smuggling.

Court documents said those duties netted the defendant $500 apiece.

Campbell asked the court for a sentence of 29 months. The government’s attorney argued for a longer term of 41 months, calling cocaine smuggling a serious crime worthy of a significant penalty.

After hearing the rationale on both sides, Molloy ordered Morton to serve 34 months, followed by three years of supervised release.

As he fashioned the sentence, the judge spurned the government’s argument that harsher sentencing acts as a deterrent. The court hands down punishment, but people keep committing drug smuggling crimes, Molloy said.

Morton took the opportunity to speak when invited by the court. “I hold myself accountable for my actions,” he said, adding that he did not realize the consequences until he wound up in jail.

The only reason he worked at the airport was to earn money to support his family, the defendant said, but after being laid off during the pandemic, he found himself short of cash.

After trying a few different ways to make up the difference and finding no success, Morton said he took a chance and made some money.

The judge also said he was disturbed by Campbell’s description of Morton as a young man with a good education from a caring family who helps his community by coaching youth sports leagues. When the time came to pronounce sentencing, Molloy addressed Morton directly.

“We have a serious problem in this community, not only with drugs, with guns but with young African-American males being incarcerated,” the judge said. And while he commended the defendant for his volunteer efforts, Molloy asked what the young athletes who looked up to him might think about Morton’s actions.

“If it were only for the work you do in the community, I would say we need more people like you. But for the fact that you engaged in drug trafficking, I cannot say that.”

“All of this for $1,500,” the judge said. “Was it worth it?”

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