Jermaine Samuel, described as a major player in an Altoona-Baltimore drug ring, was sentenced Friday to more than 46 years in prison.
Samuel, 33, appeared stunned by the 46-to-103-year sentence but had no comment as he was led by deputies back to the Blair County Prison. A jury in late January convicted him of 10 drug related offenses.
Randy Feathers, who at the time of the investigation was the regional director of the Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, made a dramatic plea to Judge Daniel J. Milliron to send Samuel away for many years.
Feathers spoke of the effect of drugs on the community: the thefts, the violence and the petty crime that results from addiction.
"Drugs, drugs, drugs are all we hear about," Feathers said, emphasizing to the judge how many of the court's cases stem from addiction.
"I hope God has mercy on his soul, but I hope today you have no mercy on him at all," Feathers told Milliron.
Defense attorney Matthew Gieg questioned police estimates that the ring was distributing at least a kilogram of cocaine every few days during the later part of 2011 when Samuel assumed control of the organization.
Gieg asked the judge for mercy, noting Samuel's young age and the fact he has two children, but Milliron concluded that "each delivery of drugs [to Altoona] had a unique and devastating effect on the community."
Milliron said the evidence showed Samuel was unconcerned about what he was doing to the community.
Police maintain Samuel became the leader of the ring's day-to-day operation in July 2011 when Damion Floyd of Baltimore was sent to a state correctional institution for four-years for drug offenses.
Officers and agents of the Attorney General's Office had been investigating the organization for many months before Samuel took over as a "manager" of the group, which operated out of the Corner Bar and Grille at 1001 Eighth Ave.
Early on Nov. 4, 2011, officers swarmed the Corner Bar and the homes of dealers within minutes of intercepting 365 grams of cocaine being brought here by an Altoona woman, who had been sent to Baltimore by Samuel.
Gieg said he had no comment about the sentence, pointing out it was the judge's call. Milliron appointed Gieg to handle Samuel's appeal to the Superior Court.
Agent James Walstrom of the Attorney General's Office, who supervised the drug investigation, said not only did police confiscate 365 grams of cocaine involved in one shipment, but wiretaps showed that Samuel processed the cocaine for street sales by diluting the cocaine with Inositol and acetone and cooking it into crack in a room at the Corner Bar.
When police raided the bar, Samuel gave them the key to the room.
The recorded calls showed that brothers Kenneth Piner Sr. and Stephen Piner and many others were distributing the cocaine purchased from Samuel, Walstrom said.
The calls alone, he stated, indicated how much cocaine was being purchased through Samuel.
Feathers said that Samuel was not one of the small-time victims of drug abuse that come before the court but instead was one of the people at the top of the drug "food chain."
Samuel admitted in his presentence investigation that he had been dealing drugs for 12 years before he was placed in the Blair County Drug Court in 2004.
He did time in 2008 on drug-related charges, and it was only a few weeks after getting out of a state prison that he began doing the bidding of the Corner Bar gang.
Feathers said police and organizations like Operation Our Town have "worked so very, very hard to fight back" against the tide of drugs.
He said with Samuel, rehabilitation is out of the question. "He's a drug dealer today, tomorrow, 100 years from now," he said.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman said after getting out of prison in 2011, Samuel quit a real job to take over the leadership of the drug ring.
"He wasn't making enough money," Gorman said. "He will always be a menace to society."
Samuel's sentence of 46 1/2-103 years is the third highest in Blair County, exceeded only by sentences imposed on Gene "Shorty" Carter of Philadelphia, 104 1/2-216 years, and Efrain Hidalgo Jr. of Buffalo, 60-150 years.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.