John Wesley Hall

15 people arrested in Little Rock-based drug trafficking bust

A federal investigation dubbed Operation Mad Hatter led to the arrest of 15 individuals authorities say are tied to a central Arkansas drug trafficking organization. According to a news report, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said a grand jury indicted 19 individuals in connection with the case in August of 2019.

Operation Mad Hatter has been going on since 2018, with the first arrests coming in February of 2019. In all, the operation led to the arrest of 15 individuals, with four additional defendants facing charges. Authorities also seized a significant amount of drugs, money and weapons, portraying the group as an organized distribution ring.

"They attempted to flood the Little Rock area and central Arkansas with drugs and [they were] also trying to set up distribution networks in other parts of Arkansas,” said a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assistant special agent in charge during a press conference.

Penalties for federal drug distribution charges

While the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not reveal the specific charges each arrested individual is facing, federal drug trafficking laws can show what to potentially expect. Generally speaking, the seriousness of a drug distribution charge – and therefore, the penalty for a conviction – depends upon the quantity of drugs recovered.

For example, Operation Mad Hatter reportedly turned up more than 1 kilogram of heroin. Federal law specifies anyone with 1 kilogram or more of heroin, who is or is intending to manufacture or distribute it, may face a prison term of 10 years to life.

The same penalty applies to:

  • 5 kilograms or more of cocaine
  • 100 grams or more of phencyclidine (PCP)
  • 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and its derivatives
  • 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (including as a mixture or substance)

Smaller amounts – such as 100 grams of heroin, or 500 grams of a cocaine substance – can come with a less severe penalty. However, certain circumstances might increase these penalties.

Drug charges can carry the weight of the government behind them, and some aggressive prosecutors may do everything they can to try to get a charge to stick. It’s vital anyone facing a drug charge find a strong, effective and organized defense attorney to fight back. Just because someone has been arrested does not mean they are guilty, nor should it mean their rights can be ignored.

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