Three Federal Trials: Three Guilty Verdicts
Three Defendants Convicted in One Week of Unprecedented Trial Volume
LITTLE ROCK (STL.News) The week of July 26, 2021, brought three guilty verdicts in separate federal trials. A combination of pandemic-related delays and a significant increase in caseload resulted in four simultaneous jury trials in federal court last week. One trial is expected to last several weeks, and the other three concluded last week with the convictions of three defendants.
The week’s first trial began Monday morning with a case in which Sparkle Hobbs, aka Sparkle Bryant, 33, of Little Rock, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. She was also charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl, possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and misprision (concealment) of a felony.
The evidence at trial indicated that Hobbs sold methamphetamine to an informant, which led to a search warrant at her residence in February of 2018. Law enforcement located five firearms, approximately $29,000 in cash, 103 grams of fentanyl, 497 grams of methamphetamine, and .049 grams of heroin in the residence. The jury returned their guilty verdict Tuesday evening.
The Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and Arkansas State Police conducted the investigation, which is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
The second guilty verdict of the week was returned on Friday morning. A jury convicted Darby Leroy Williams, 30, of North Little Rock, of being a felon in possession of two firearms and ammunition. Williams has prior felonies for distribution of drugs and is on parole because of those convictions. Law enforcement received information that Williams was dealing drugs from his residence.
In March of 2018, North Little Rock Police Department (NLRPD) and Arkansas Community Corrections (ACC) conducted a parole search of Williams’ home and located two handguns, a Glock and a Ruger, both of which were loaded, as well as ammunition, methamphetamine, and marijuana. The case was investigated by NLRPD, ACC, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Cameron McCree and Lauren Eldridge and was also tried before Judge Baker.
The final guilty verdict arrived late Friday evening, when jurors deliberated for only 20 minutes after hearing the evidence against Ryan Kinsey, 35, of Beebe, who was charged with one count of Social Security fraud and one count of making materially false statements to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Kinsey was initially approved for Social Security Disability benefits in 2013 and had those benefits continued in June 2018. Part of the paperwork that Kinsey filled out in May 2018 to extend his benefits included sections where he affirmed that he was not working and was physically incapable of working based on his disability. But also in June 2018, a SSA employee with the Searcy field office noticed that, based on the physical appearance of Kinsey and the fact that he arrived at the office driving a truck with a large horse trailer attached, Kinsey appeared as if he had been working.
A subsequent SSA-OIG investigation revealed that Kinsey had been working as a horse rancher on his family farm in Beebe. At trial, the United States called numerous witnesses who all testified that during the time periods alleged they had either bought horses or hay from Kinsey or had Kinsey transport livestock. In the 15 months prior to indictment, Kinsey received more than $100,000 in payments for his ranching activities.
During that same time period, he fraudulently received more than $20,000 from SSA. The case was investigated by SSA-OIG, prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Bart Dickinson and Chris Givens, and tried before United States District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky.
The fourth trial that began last week, United States v. Gilbert Baker, is expected to last several weeks and has been paused due to a positive COVID-19 test from one of the trial participants. It is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning pending negative COVID-19 test results from the remaining trial participants.