McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 6, 2014

2 plead in prison smuggling case

By TREVOR DUNBAR
Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — Judgment and sentencing have been deferred for 10 years for an Oklahoma City man and woman after they pleaded guilty Dec. 27 to allegations of conspiring to deliver contrabands to Jackie Brannon Correctional Center.

Aaron Lusty, 19, and Misty Dawn Johnson, 20, were charged in Pittsburg County District Court on Nov. 4 with 10 felony counts and two misdemeanors in connection with the case. Court records show each received 10-year deferrals and fines totaling $200 each, with another nine counts dismissed.

Lusty and Johnson had faced up to life in prison and $66,500 in fines, according to court records.

“They ran it to the back of a Dumpster,” JBCC Deputy Warden David Wortham said of how the contraband was allegedly delivered. “They stopped about a block from West Street and ran onto the property.”

The two were apprehended after county sheriff’s deputies allegedly saw Lusty running back onto West Street with a JBCC guard chasing him, according to court records. While assisting the guard, deputies saw a car drive past and speed off. They chased the vehicle and arrested Johnson, who was behind the wheel, a court affidavit states.

Officers found Xanax, methamphetamine, cell phones and marijuana in the vehicle and allege Lusty and Johnson had planned to leave those items at nearby Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the affidavit states.

When asked about the sentence Lusty and Johnson received, Wortham said he was proud of JBCC and county deputies for catching the pair. However, sentencing is out of his hands, he said; JBCC employees simply do their jobs and the courts do the rest.

“We do our part. Searching for contraband is something we always take very seriously,” Wortham said. “It’s part of our daily routine. We do our part and let it go.”

Wortham said contraband delivery is a big focus because it’s a common problem. The most common items smuggled in are tobacco and cell phones.

There is more to smuggling these items than just demand, he said.

“Cell phones and tobacco are big lately because there are no trafficking charges for them,” Wortham said. “There’s less risk because it’s not a crime until you bring it onto state property.

“We are always looking for cell phones and tobacco both inside and on the property.”

No matter what happens, Wortham said contraband will always be an important concern. Every day smugglers come up with new ways to try to get items into the prison system, and prison officials will continue to be on the lookout for them.

Common smuggling methods include driving it onto the property or throwing it over a fence. Others methods are turning up all the time.

“They get pretty creative,” he said. “Let’s say nothing surprises us anymore.”