Six defendants in the federal drug case against Northampton County sheriff’s deputies—the one that involved no drugs whatsoever—have appealed a judge’s detention order to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On April 30 a 54-count federal indictment was unsealed revealing drug-trafficking conspiracy charges against several current and former deputies in Northampton. The charges alleged that 15 defendants conspired to move 115 kilograms of heroin and cocaine up and down the eastern corridor. However, it was all a ruse; court documents showed that the FBI had staged an elaborate scheme—nicknamed “Operation Rockfish“—in which agents posed as members of a drug-trafficking organization, using planes and warehouses to make the sheriff’s deputies believe they were trafficking drugs. But in actuality, no drugs were ever used.
A federal judge ordered detention, pending trial, for all but two of the defendants. In his reasoning the judge cited several factors, including the defendants’ familiarity with firearms and flight risk.
Last week, six defendants appealed the judge’s order to the Fourth Circuit, which governs North Carolina’s federal courts.
The defendants face steep sentences, ranging up to 90 years in federal prison.