It took 10 years to capture him but, after five years federal prosecutors have once again failed to put former Memphis drug kingpin Craig Petties behind bars for the rest of his life.
Petties is now asking prosecutors to recommend reducing his sentence to include a chance at parole. The multiple murderer and racketeer says his cooperation with prosecutors should be worth some lenience in sentencing.
At one point federal prosecutors considered pursuing the death penalty for Petties. The drug kingpin pled guilty to a raft of crimes which put life in prison without parole in play. But just as prosecutors were ready to slam the cell door on him for good, the criminal who appeared devoid of mercy now contends prosecutors and a judge should show him some.
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While the sounds of the city clattered outside, the silence emanating from the Western District U.S. Attorney General's Office was deafening. Probably, as well it should be. For in an unannounced hearing in federal court, prosecutors again failed to complete the sentencing of Petties.
"The members of the Petties drug trafficking organization were responsible as alleged in the indictment for six murders, attempted murders, drug trafficking and other crimes," said former U.S. District Attorney David Kustoff in 2008.
The sticking point this time? Though the former drug lord pled guilty in 2009 to ordering four hitman murders along with racketeering charges, Petties wants prosecutors to recommend a sentence reduction rather than serving the automatic sentence for his crimes of life in prison with no parole.
His attorney, Ross Sampson, argued before Federal Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays, Jr., on Thursday, his client deserves a reduction because he cooperated with prosecutors in nailing others in the cocaine trafficking business. However, Memphis defense attorney Marty McAfee, who was legal counsel to former Petties' convicted hitman Martin Lewis, believes Petties had already stopped "snitching" to the feds.
"With a case like this, it has tentacles reaching all over the place and they maybe interested in his information," McAfee said. "My understanding was his cooperation had already ended and moved as far as it could go."
Additionally, Petties may have thrown a major crimp into his relationship with prosecutors since he's been incarcerated.
"He either had drugs or a phone which is contraband, which is inside the prison," McAfee added. "They put lawyers in jail for having a cellphone in prison. So, the fact that they have prisoners is extremely illegal because you can run, you can run a drug ring from there.
"As I understand it, once you have broken the law further, they are no longer interested in working with you," the defense attorney added. "It's hard to imagine, given the magnitude of what he was convicted of and the number of people he has hurt, that he's going to actually believe he's going to walk."
After the hearing, FOX13 News attempted to speak with Sampson about his client's chances of getting a reduced sentence, but he would only say a new sentencing date of Aug. 22 has been set. A response typical of the deafening silence that's been standard operating procedure in the handling of the Petties case, since his arrest more than five years ago.
Judge Mays told attorneys he now wants the sentencing of Petties to be decided at that Aug. 22 hearing.
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