Defendants Plead Guilty in Drug Distribution Investigation at Albany Hotels, 20 Firearms Seized Including Machinegun
ALBANY, Ga. – Six defendants entered guilty pleas in federal court in a drug and firearms case involving a cache of illegally possessed weapons, including a fully automatic rifle and sawed-off shotgun.
On Friday, June 4, Daniel Landon Knight, 30, of Leesburg, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count attempt to escape from custody. For the firearms charge, Knight faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. For the escape charge, Knight faces five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. Co-defendant Haley Roberts, 33, of Lee County, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for which she faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. Co-defendant Donald Hammock, 57, of Shellman, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Hammock likely faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years up to a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum $250,000 fine.
On Thursday, June 3, co-defendant Emanuel Cobb, 36, pleaded guilty to one count distribution of methamphetamine. Cobb faces a mandatory minimum of ten years up to a maximum of life in prison and a maximum $10,000,000 fine. Co-defendant Joshua Walls, 34, of Albany, pleaded guilty to one count distribution of methamphetamine and one count possession of a machinegun. For the distribution of methamphetamine charge, Walls faces a mandatory minimum of ten years up to a maximum of life in prison and a maximum $10,000,000 fine, and as a result of the possession of a machinegun charge, he faces a maximum of ten years in prison and maximum fine of $250,000.
On May 13, Cody Harman, 35, of Albany, pleaded guilty to one count distribution of methamphetamine. Harman faces a minimum mandatory prison sentence of ten years up to a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment as well as a fine of up to $10,000,000.
All pleas were offered before U.S. District Judge Leslie Gardner in Albany, Georgia. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Law enforcement agents prevented a group of convicted felons in possession of dangerous weapons – including a machinegun – from continuing to circulate drugs and guns into our community. These defendants will now face federal consequences for their crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Our office will continue working closely with our law enforcement partners to take all necessary steps to curb violence in our region.”
“Due to the diligence of our local, state and federal partners, these lifelong criminals are unable to continue threatening the safety of our citizens,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “These repeat offenders have another chance to learn that their life choices have very serious consequences.”
“Illegal guns and drugs have no place in Georgia. They are a danger to the community and breed fear amongst hardworking citizens. We value our partnership with federal and local agencies to work these cases that lead to successful prosecutions,” said GBI Director Vic Reynolds.
According to court documents, from January 2020 through August 2020, law enforcement agents investigated Wall, Cobb and Harman’s methamphetamine and heroin distribution activities at local motels in Albany. In the course of this investigation, agents learned that not only were the members of the group regularly dealing in controlled substances but were also often in possession of or selling firearms. Further, they learned that some of the firearms were fully automatic and in the process of being converted to fully automatic or otherwise altered.
Investigations and arrests in this case took place at Knights Inn, Araamda Hotel, Budget Inn, Motel 6, Merry Acres Inn and Red Roof Inn in Albany. Specifically, Harman, Walls and Cobb admitted their involvement in drug sales inside the Knights Inn, and Walls also admitted that in the parking lot of a hotel he sold a rifle equipped with a bump stock and a 30-round magazine, which falls under the category of machinegun under federal law. Such firearms allow a shooter to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.
Additionally, Lee County Sheriff Deputies took Knight into custody on a state probation warrant violation on July 15, 2020. Knight was previously convicted in Lee County Superior Court in April 2014 on a four-count felony and sentenced to serve 12 years in jail; he was on probation at the time of his arrest. From jail, Knight was recorded giving Roberts instructions to relocate “bangers” which agents believed to be code for firearms. On July 20, 2020, law enforcement officers arrested Roberts at the Merry Acres Inn, Albany, on a state probation warrant violation. Roberts was previously convicted in Lee County Superior Court in April 2017 on a three-count felony violation and was on probation at the time of her arrest. During a search of the hotel room she was staying in, officers found 12 firearms, including five AK-15 style rifles without any visible make, model or serial number markings. Further investigation revealed that Walls had assisted Roberts in moving the firearms from Florida to the Merry Acres Inn.
Finally, on July 25, 2020, a Randolph County Sheriff’s Office deputy was on routine patrol and observed a vehicle driven by Hammock crossing the center line and entering the oncoming lane of traffic. During the stop for suspected DUI, the deputy found quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, pills, stolen property and two firearms including a loaded handgun and a shortened barrel shotgun. Hammock admitted that he was a felon and knew that he could not have guns. He said he had purchased the firearms from Wall.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, GBI, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Randolph County Sherriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen is prosecuting the case.