March 3, 2021 – According to Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard, the alleged drug smugglers exploited a regulatory loophole regarding legal mail that is addressed to inmates.
While jail staff conduct thorough examinations of all general mail addressed to inmates, they are prohibited from applying more than a cursory level of scrutiny to correspondence from an attorney, judge, clerk of court or other legal entity.
In this case, the Suboxone strips were concealed between two sheets of letter-sized paper that had been glued together and mailed to the jail. The envelope was addressed to an inmate and contained a typed return address label purporting to be from a local law office.
“It’s very upsetting that in a facility where we try to help people overcome opioid addiction, others would try to bring these drugs into our jail,” Leonard said in an interview last Thursday. “I find it personally offensive.”
The county jail’s landmark addiction recovery program HARP (Helping Addicts Recover Progressively) marks its fifth anniversary this month. Leonard noted that none of the four inmates implicated in the Suboxone plot were housed in jail pods designated for HARP participants.
Three of them – Jersey James Grant, Feraud Tyrell Freeman-Butler and James Logan Williams – were already in the Chesterfield jail awaiting trial on other charges. The fourth, Devonte Anthony Terrell Boucher Jr., was serving time for grand larceny, felony probation violation and failure to appear in court.
All four men are facing additional felony counts related to the drug scheme, in which two women also are accused of participating.
Samantha Daulton, of the 800 block of North Hamilton Street in Richmond, and Erica Freeman-Butler, of the 200 block of Secretariat Court in Ashland, have been charged with conspiracy to deliver drugs to a prisoner. The Class 5 felonies come with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Freeman-Butler briefly was at large last week. She was taken into custody after voluntarily reporting to the county jail Feb. 25, then released on a $1,500 bond.
“We’re pretty confident this has not been a long, ongoing operation. We were able to nip it in the bud before it became a major issue,” Leonard said.
Following his office’s investigation, county administration authorized the sheriff to hire a part-time civilian to handle processing and distribution of general inmate mail. That freed up a full-time sworn deputy to be assigned to handle inspections of “legal mail.”