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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Department of Justice

United States Attorney James R. Dedrick Eastern District of Tennessee


Greeneville, TN: Tony Lee Church, age 36, of Butler, Tennessee, was sentenced to 123 months imprisonment followed by six years of supervised release in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville, by the Honorable Leon Jordan, United States District Judge. The sentence was the result of a guilty plea by Tony Lee Church on June 3, 2009, to a federal grand jury indictment charging him with the manufacture of a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the manufacture of methamphetamine. Church's co-defendant, Kristy Dawn Dugger, was previously sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison on a related charge. There is no parole in the federal system.

The facts of the case included the following. On June 24, 2008, Johnson County Deputy Sheriff Starling McCloud began pursuing Tony Church, because Church was wanted for a violation of probation and other charges. He followed Church to a residence where Church got out of his vehicle and went in the back door of the residence. When the deputy went in the back door, Church ran out the front door.

After a search and the discovery of a meth lab at Church's residence, the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force was called to disassemble and dispose of the hazardous materials. The liquids on site were examined and determined by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to be pseudoephedrine, a necessary precursor chemical for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

On Tuesday, September 9, 2008, Erwin police officers observed two individuals at the corner of Main Street and Rock Creek Road selling tools. The officers stopped to see if they had a vendor’s license. After the individuals were positively identified as Tony Church and Kristy Dugger, Church was arrested. Dugger gave consent to search the vehicle and officers found a meth lab in the trunk of the vehicle as well as a loaded handgun located in a metal box. Also inside the box were needles, a spoon with residue on it, and other drug paraphernalia. The mobile meth lab was contained in a backpack.

Later on September 9, 2008, the officers confirmed Church and Dugger had rented a motel room. Agent Bill Richardson, First Judicial District Drug Task Force, spoke to Dugger, and she gave consent to search their room at the 11-E Motel in Johnson City. The Johnson City Bomb Squad cleared the room because of possible bomb presence. Agents found and removed components and liquids used in cooking methamphetamine, as well as syringes for injecting drugs.

In sentencing Church, Judge Jordan considered Church’s prior criminal history. Church was previously convicted of attempted possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell, a Class B felony, possession with intent to sell Schedule VI drugs, and attempted initiation of process to manufacture methamphetamine, all in the same case. He was given four years probation and diversion for those offenses.

The indictment and subsequent conviction of Tony Lee Church and Kristy Dawn Dugger were the result of an investigation conducted by the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department, the Erwin Police Department, the Johnson City Police Department, the First Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Johnson County Sheriff's Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Assistant United States Attorney Rob Reeves prosecuted the case for the United States.

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