York fugitive convicted in Valley drug raid caught in NY

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comSeptember 20, 2013 

— In the midst of helping New York police wrangle accused gun smugglers, York County drug agents learned that one of their wanted had been living in a halfway house in Brooklyn.

Jeffrey Davis, 45, a fugitive on the lam since June, was extradited to York County Wednesday and is currently in jail waiting for a judge to unseal an order that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

In October, Davis and his uncle and housemate, Gregory “Weasel” Davis, 46, were arrested and charged in connection with Operation Fall Back, a joint law enforcement drug sting that in one weekend netted about 15 arrests and 46 warrants in York’s Valley neighborhood.

Police accuse the Davises – whom authorities called well-known, street-level drug dealers – of selling crack cocaine to an undercover informant. The sting involved 55 officers with four different police agencies, 15 police vehicles, bloodhounds and a State Law Enforcement Division helicopter.

Within days, most of the alleged dealers, including both Davises, had been released on bond to await trial.

In June, the Davises skipped their trials and were convicted and sentenced in their absence. Their sentences were sealed until they could be found. Authorities issued warrants for their arrests, searching for them throughout the county, following leads, speaking with family and soliciting tips from the public.

Gregory Davis faced 10 to 30 years behind bars. Prosecutors sought a life sentence for Jeffrey Davis, who received his “third strike” in the drug sweep.

Last month, while arresting several people in Rock Hill accused of selling illegal firearms in New York, drug investigators received word that Jeffrey Davis might be living nearby, said Lt. Mike Ligon, drug enforcement commander for York and Clover.

At the request of York County agents, Ligon said, New York police found Jeffrey Davis living in a halfway house in Brooklyn and took him into custody.

“He did not fight extradition,” Ligon said.

On Wednesday, York County investigators went to New York to get Jeffrey Davis. By Thursday morning, he was being held at the York County Detention Center.

York County public defender Mark McKinnon said Jeffrey Davis will be able to contest the drug charges as requisites for his “three strikes” during his sentencing hearing.

If a judge rules that Jeffrey Davis’ prior “serious offenses” were not “strikes” under state law, then he will face 10 to 30 years behind bars. Otherwise, the judge will impose a life sentence, said Jennifer Colton, the assistant York County solicitor who prosecuted defendants arrested in the Valley.

On Thursday, Marquis Antwain Patton, the last of the 15 drug dealers police arrested and charged in Operation Fall Back, pleaded guilty to distribution of crack and distribution of crack in proximity to a park or school. Patton, 24, will spend the next 18 months behind bars, followed by a year of probation, Colton said.

Several of the other dealers have pleaded guilty, receiving sentences as long as four years to as little as one year of probation, court records show. One accused dealer, Willie Walton, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week after pleading guilty to drug charges the day he was scheduled to go to trial.

McKinnon has said that Jeffrey Davis had a promising athletic career until he squandered it on an addiction to crack cocaine. He called prosecutors’ pursuit of a life sentence for Jeffrey Davis “fiscally irresponsible.”

“He’s never hurt anyone,” McKinnon said.

But, Colton said, “one way or another, we’re paying for it” – whether in tax dollars that keep Jeffrey Davis in prison, or in children being exposed to crack and violence.

If Jeffrey Davis were truly a drug addict, Colton said, he could have sought help from community programs or clinics.

“He never did those things,” she said. “He’s a dealer” and likely has never been “gainfully employed.”

But his uncle, Gregory Davis, was employed until an undercover informant secretly videotaped him reaching into his car and exchanging drugs for money.

In late July, police received a tip that Gregory Davis was living somewhere in the Charlotte area. Investigators with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office found him living with a woman in a home in Pineville, N.C., and arrested him, Ligon said.

He was held at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center, where he was given a $300,000 fugitive bond after he decided to fight extradition to York County. If he had been able to post that bond, he would have been released in North Carolina and authorities would have had to look for him again.

He didn’t. Three weeks ago, he returned to the county in handcuffs, and his sealed sentence was opened. He was sent to the state Department of Corrections, where he will remain for the next 30 years.

The career for a drug dealer, Colton said, ends in one of two ways – “prison, or you’re dead.”

She hopes the prospect of stiff sentences will sway others, especially children and teens, from selling drugs.

In court, Colton said, York Police Chief Andy Robinson told the judge that crime in the Valley has declined as a result of the raid.

Brenda Robinson, 48, who has lived in the Valley all her life, said “there are still some incidents,” including one on Thursday, when someone drove down Galilean Road shooting.

“They weren’t firecrackers,” Brenda Robinson said. Drug raids like Operation Fall Back have “helped it a bit, but there’s still a little taste rolling around.”

But it’s not nearly as bad as it was years ago, she said. In June, Robinson told The Herald that drug dealers often parked their cars on curbs and buyers would meet them at their windows.

These days, she doesn’t see dealing out in the open like that, and the dealers are “people on the outside” who “don’t normally stay here.”

While some people in the community don’t welcome the police presence, Robinson said she can see a difference.

“Every time they do a sweep, it gets better and better.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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