CORRECTION - Posted Jan. 12, 2012 - Due to a reporter's error a story on Page 1 of Friday, Dec. 9, 2011's edition of the Times-Tribune concerning the guilty plea of James Meradith in U.S. District Court contained an error. It should have said he pleaded guilty to only one charge of a four count indictment. We regret the error.
CORRECTION - Posted Dec. 10, 2011 - Due to a reporter’s error, a story about a guilty plea by James Meradith in London’s U.S. District that appeared on Page 1 and 3 of Friday’s edition misidentified the agency of an investigator in the case. Special Agent Todd Tremaine is with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
By Carl Keith Greene/Staff Writer
A man connected in a federal affidavit to former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge pleaded guilty to drug charges in London’s U.S. District Court Thursday.
James Meradith, 35, was indicted in September with three counts of selling oxycodone and one count charging him with having a 12-gauge shotgun.
Meradith pleaded guilty to all charges and sentencing was set for April 12.
He could be imprisoned to as much as 20 years, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove said.
Meradith, Charles Fritts Jr., Doyle Stanford “Stan-Boy” Fritts, Jerry Lee Fritts, Nikita Nichole Evans and Jason A. Kersey were all charged in an earlier indictment issued in April.
Court documents indicate that, at a house on Ted Ball Road in Whitley County called the “dope house,” Hodge was said to sell and buy drugs while residents there helped him dispose of guns reported as missing from his office in a 2009 burglary that investigators later determined was staged.
In a March 3 interview, Meradith told Special DEA Agent Todd Tremaine that Hodge had traded Lorcet tablets for oxycodone.
He also told Tremaine that he had gone to Jellico to get painkillers for Hodge beginning about Dec. 2009.
Questioned by Tatenhove, Meradith said he had dropped out high school in his sophomore year at a school in Charleston, S.C.
He earned his GED and worked as a welder in that area and the last job he had was in Corbin for two or three years working in steel erection.
On Oct. 12, Charles F. Fritts Jr. pleaded guilty to distributing oxycodone and being a felon in possession of a firearm as part of plea agreement. He is set to be sentenced at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16. If his plea agreement is accepted, the other seven counts against him will be dismissed.
Doyle Stanford Fritts and Jerry Fritts are set to go to trial at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 9.
On Sept. 1, Evans and Kersey each pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement to one count of aiding and abetting in the distribution of a quantity of pills containing hydrocodone. If the plea agreement is accepted, other counts against them will be dismissed. They are each set for sentencing at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5.
Hodge is currently serving a 15 and a half year sentence in federal prison for extortion, distributing oxycodone and conspiring to commit money laundering.