2 charged in Johnson City Airport marijuana shipment agree to plea deals

Brad Hicks • Dec 10, 2013 at 4:01 PM

The two men arrested last month after law enforcement officials said they arrived at the Johnson City Airport in a private plane used to transport more than 70 pounds of marijuana to the area have each agreed to plea agreements in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.

Both Justin D. Laycock and David M. Cardwell have agreed to waive indictment and arraignment and plead guilty to an information charging each man with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute a quantity of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana, according to a document filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

Per their plea agreements, each man faces a maximum punishment of not more than five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a period of supervised release from two years to life, and a mandatory assessment of $100. Laycock must also forfeit his 1961 Cessna 210A airplane and its log books, as well as his Ruger semi-automatic pistol and its magazines found to be in his possession at the time of his arrest.

According to the plea agreement document, Laycock and Cardwell conspired to distribute 77 pounds of marijuana. The document states that on Nov. 15, the men agreed to fly Laycock's private airplane from Tennessee to California to obtain marijuana. According to court documents, the men then agreed to fly this marijuana, contained within three duffle bags, back to Tennessee.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in east Tennessee received information that a private plane transporting marijuana would be arrived at the Johnson City Airport, a privately-owned airport located on Watauga Road. On Nov. 18, law enforcement officials began surveilling the airport and, at around 1 p.m. that day, the plane piloted by Laycock arrived, according to court documents.

Officials observed Laycock and Cardwell talking on cell phones and Cardwell load a backpack into Laycock's vehicle that was parked nearby, according to the plea agreement document. Court documents state that Laycock's brother arrived a short time later, and officials observed the men loading the duffle bags into the vehicle driven by Laycock's brother.

Agents approached the men and, after a search of the plane and the vehicles, found that the three duffle bags contained 77 pounds of marijuana, according to the plea agreement.

"The marijuana was pure bud and each package was labeled as to type/brand of marijuana," the document states.

In the backpack Cardwell had loaded into Laycock's vehicle, officials found Laycock's passport, a Ruger semi-automatic pistol that Laycock said belonged to him, and loaded magazines for the pistol, according to the plea agreement document.

Both Laycock and Cardwell are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Jan. 10 at 1:30 p.m. for a plea agreement hearing.

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