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Six sentenced in local meth investigation

Six defendants entered guilty pleas in Carter County Criminal Court Thursday in connection with the 2019 Operation Sundown methamphetamine distribution investigation. Five of those defendants received prison sentences. 
Operation Sundown was a joint investigation by the drug units of the Elizabethton Police Department and Carter County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in 44 defendants being charged with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine in an amount of 300 grams or more with intent to sell or deliver. The conspiracy charge encompassed a time span between January and August 2019.
The defendants entering pleas in court Thursday, including the specific charges they pled to, include:
• Larry Edward “Bud” Stapleton. He received a 10-year sentence to serve for possession of methamphetamine in a drug free zone. The first eight years of the sentence will be served in its entirety as he was convicted for possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver within 1,000 feet of Elizabethton High School.
• Michael Shane Walker. He received a 12-year sentence to serve for possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver. He will have to serve 30 percent of this sentence before being eligible for parole. However, he also pled guilty to violating his probation on an effective 16-year sentence he had when he committed the August 2019 offense. Those sentences will be served consecutively for an effective 28 years at 30 percent.
• Taylor Brooke Crowe received a 15-year sentence to serve for conspiracy to possess methamphetamine 300 grams or more with intent to sell or deliver. She will have to serve 30 percent of this sentence before being eligible for parole.
• Hutch Freddie Sims received a 15-year sentence to serve for conspiracy to possess methamphetamine 300 grams or more with intent to sell or deliver. He will have to serve 30 percent of this sentence before being eligible for parole.
• Brandon Keith Lewis received an effective 25-year sentence for two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver. By terms of his plea agreement, he shall serve the first 10 years in prison with parole eligibility at 30 percent. He received probation for the last 10 years of his sentence.
• James Terry Pierce received a 10-year sentence for possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver. By terms of his plea agreement, he received probation for his sentence.
Of the 44 defendants charged in this case, 28 have now resolved their cases by plea agreements. Of those, 17 agreed to sentences to serve incarcerated with the Tennessee Department of Corrections, either for this conspiracy or other charges brought by drug agents in the First Judicial District. Another 11 of the defendants entered pleas with agreed probation. One defendant was dismissed on motion of the State following agreements to cooperate. The remaining 15 defendants have their cases still pending as they remain out of custody on bond. Due to the Tennessee Supreme Court order for limited in-person court proceedings, those defendants will likely not appear in Criminal Court until April.