Jury Convicts Columbia Man of Threatening a Lawyer in Drug-trafficking Case
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the father of a man convicted of leading a large-scale drug-trafficking conspiracy in Columbia, Mo., was found guilty by a federal trial jury of threatening the attorney who represented one of his son’s co-defendants.
Bruce Wayne Stephens, 70, of Columbia, was found guilty on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, of obstructing justice by threatening to retaliate against another person because of his participation in an official proceeding.
Stephens is the father of Malcolm Desean Redmon, who was sentenced on Sept. 29, 2016, to 24 years and four months in federal prison without parole. Redmon pleaded guilty to leading a conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of powder cocaine and crack cocaine in Boone County from November 2011 to August 2014. Court documents also cite Redmon’s involvement in numerous shooting incidents and his history of criminal activity, including violent crimes and drug use. To date, 18 defendants in that case have been sentenced; eight more defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that Stephens made a series of threats intended to retaliate against those involved in the prosecution of Redmon. The primary person Stephens threatened was Brian Risley, the attorney who represented one of Redmon’s co-defendants, Vershawn Edwards.
While the case against him was pending, Redmon was involved in threatening witnesses and cooperators, as documented by recorded phone conversations between Redmon and his mother, as well as postings on various social media sites and documents obtained via search warrant that contained the names of individuals next to witness statements of persons Redmon believed were responsible for cooperating against him.
When Risley arrived at the federal courthouse for Edwards’s sentencing hearing on Sept. 29, 2016 (the same afternoon as Redmon’s sentencing hearing), he was met by several persons outside the courtroom who asked him who he represented. When he replied that he represented Edwards, Stephens repeatedly stated, “snitches, snitches belong in ditches.”
Inside the courtroom, Stephens again repeatedly stated the phrase, “snitches, snitches belong in ditches,” and this time appeared to direct the comments toward Edwards’s family members in the courtroom. After the Edwards sentencing hearing concluded, Stephens moved toward Edwards’s family in the courtroom. Risley, fearing that Stephens would attempt to confront family members, attempted to physically block Stephens’s access by placing himself between Stephens and the family. The family left the courtroom and Risley kept himself positioned between Stephens and the family as the family moved toward the elevator. During this time, Stephens was again repeating the phrase “snitches, snitches belong in ditches.”
Risley raised his arm at one point to prevent Stephens from passing him and Stephens then began to curse loudly and accused Risley of pushing him. Two court security officers then escorted Stephens out of the courthouse. One of the officers heard Stephens threaten Risley and the officers.
A few minutes later, Risley left the courthouse and walked to his car parked on the street across from the courthouse. Stephens then accosted Risley as Risley got to his car and opened the car door. Stephens stated to Risley, “snitches, you a … snitch … I will kill you, kill your wife, kill your family.” Risley did not respond, finished getting into his car, shut the car door and drove off.
While there is no direct evidence that Stephens participated in his son’s drug-trafficking conspiracy, according to court documents, there is ample evidence that Stephens supported Redmon’s drug-dealing lifestyle as well as the culture associated with drug dealing, one part of which is to threaten harm to those who testify against drug dealers. For example, in his post-arrest statement, Stephens reaffirmed his belief that physical harm should be inflicted on “snitches.”
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., deliberated for four and a half hours before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark, ending a trial that began Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.
Under federal statutes, Stephens is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Deputy U.S. Attorney Gene Porter and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Orsinger. It was investigated by the FBI.