Jackson, TN - After a four-day trial, Preston Anton McNeal, 35, was found guilty on four counts of a seven-count indictment. Joseph C. Murphy, Jr., United States Attorney, announced the guilty verdict today.
According to information presented in court, from late 2016 until February 2019, McNeal formed and was the leader of a substantial methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy in West Tennessee. On January 2, 2017, the Lexington Police Department stopped a vehicle being driven by Mr. McNeal, the only occupant of the vehicle. After coming to a stop McNeal threw a bag containing 44 grams of actual methamphetamine, 16 grams of cocaine and a gram of crack cocaine into a nearby yard. All the narcotics were packaged separately for distribution. McNeal was placed into custody and the narcotics thrown by the defendant were recovered. A search of the vehicle revealed $1,281 in cash, a drug ledger, and a digital scale.
On February 9, 2019, and after the original indictment was returned against McNeal, Chester County Sheriff's Deputy stopped a vehicle being driven by McNeal and arrested him on the federal arrest warrant. He was placed into custody on a federal arrest warrant for the original indictment in this case. In the vehicle with McNeal was Whitney Jowers, who testified at trial that prior to being pulled over, McNeal handed her some items and told her to hide them, which she did. After both McNeal and Jowers were placed under arrest, Jowers told law enforcement that she had several items on her person, including four bags of methamphetamine, three of which weighed 14 grams. Officers also located another bag of methamphetamine under the driver's seat which also weighed 14 grams, and over $3,000 in cash which was scattered throughout the car. The total weight of the methamphetamine was 57 grams.
At trial, the government also called Christie Austin. She testified that from late 2016 through February 2019, she received 220 ounces of methamphetamine from McNeal for redistribution. Austin also testified that McNeal distributed methamphetamine to several other individuals in the Henderson County area.
During the trial, McNeal had to be admonished by the judge several times for his unruly behavior, and he also assaulted multiple correctional officers on the final day of trial, which delayed the jury's deliberation. McNeal also testified in his own defense during trial and claimed that he only sold marijuana. The jury rejected McNeal's story and convicted him of conspiring with others to distribute over 50 grams of actual methamphetamine and possessing with the intent to distribute over 5 grams and 50 grams of methamphetamine on January 2, 2017, and February 9, 2019, respectively. The jury also convicted McNeal of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute on January 2, 2o17.
Sentencing is set for November 15, 2022, before Chief United States District Judge S. Thomas Anderson. McNeal faces a mandatory-minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment, and he will also likely qualify as a career offender, in which case he would face a guideline range of 360 months to life imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal system.
This case was investigated by the Lexington, Tennessee Police Department, the Chester County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
Assistant United States Attorneys Adam Davis and Josh Morrow prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.