Heroin, crack dealer sentenced to 12 1/2 years

The last of nine defendants charged in a conspiracy blamed for spreading staggering amounts of heroin and crack around Winchester was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to 12 ½ years in prison.

The defendant, Terry Donnell Johnson Jr., 24, was identified in court documents as one of two leaders in the conspiracy that spanned more than three years and ended in October 2014. Johnson was jailed several months earlier and has remained locked up since then.

A sentencing memorandum by Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Wolthuis estimated the amount of heroin trafficked was no less than 22 pounds and as much as 66 pounds. He pegged crack cocaine distribution at between 18 ½ and 55 ½ pounds.

Wolthuis criticized Baltimore’s court system for going easy on Johnson while he committed offenses in that city. Excessive leniency allowed Johnson to remain free until he began bringing drugs to Winchester, Wolthuis said.

“It is important to note that the state courts in Baltimore have given total sentences for the defendant’s five adult convictions of 15 days, and that includes a felony drug trafficking conviction,” Wolthuis said. “It can be argued, in this case, that the criminal justice system in Baltimore has failed to promote respect for the law, provide just punishment, to provide adequate deterrence to criminal conduct and to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”

Virginia State Police Special Agent Jay Perry said in an interview that light sentencing in Baltimore has contributed to the rise of the heroin pipeline that reached Winchester in recent years. As a result, Perry said, law enforcement officials try to have drug dealers from Baltimore charged in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.

“I’d say absolutely it’s a factor we have to deal with,” Perry said of the sentencing disparities between the two jurisdictions. “We tend to get heavier sentences when we bring them back here to the Western District.”

Johnson’s attorney, Gregory Bowman, agreed to the sentence his client received.

“Counsel … believes that a sentence of (12 1/2 years) would avoid any unwarranted sentencing disparities and reflects the roles of all the defendants in this case,” Bowman wrote in his sentencing memorandum.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com