scdc
Crime & Courts

‘Prison Empire’ Update: Additional Guilty Pleas

Largest statewide grand jury investigation in history yields two dozen new pleas …

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Twenty-four defendants entered guilty pleas this week in connection with the sprawling “Prison Empire” investigation, a massive probe of multi-faceted criminality originating behind the walls of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).

The pleas were announced on Tuesday by the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – who has been working with SCDC director Bryan Stirling to shut down the use of contraband phones behind bars.

“A prison cell is no place for a cell phone – period,” Wilson said in a release accompanying the plea announcements. “Contraband cell phones pose a real threat and allow inmates to not only continue a life of criminality from behind prison walls but facilitate it outside the prison.”

“Illegal cellphones allow prisoners to continue selling drugs, stalking victims and committing heinous crimes,” Stirling said. “This is another reason why states should be allowed to jam cellphone signals in prisons.”

Support FITSNews … SUBSCRIBE!

***

According to Wilson, the ongoing investigation represents “the largest case in state grand jury history with over ninety defendants and hundreds of charges.”

Using contraband phones, “Prison Empire” defendants trafficked methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and other drugs. The investigation also spawned firearms, burglary and kidnapping charges. Some of those were tied to the abduction of an 18-year-old pregnant woman in Edgefield County, S.C. – a woman whose father owed a drug-related debt to one of the ringleaders of the operation.

This news outlet has reported on “Prison Empire” since the first arrests were announced nearly four years ago – noting at the time how the investigation would “revive the debate over the jamming of cell phone signals in South Carolina’s correctional facilities.”

It has …

This news outlet has not always been on the right side of the cell phone jamming issue. However, in 2017, I embraced the idea (belatedly) as part of an expansive vision for prison reform.

What prompted this change?

“I realized purported public safety objections voiced by wireless providers paled in comparison to the legitimate public safety threat posed by violent inmates with these devices in their possession,” I noted earlier this year. “The truth is prepaid phones and prepaid phone minutes constitute a multi-billion dollar annual industry – one that encompasses virtually all extra-legal prison usage. Wireless providers simply do not want to part with that money.”

Since then, my news outlet has been pushing for cell phone jamming.

As previously reported, “Prison Empire” ran from behind SCDC walls between 2013 and 2021. Incarcerated inmates coordinated drug trafficking – and other criminal activity – with co-conspirators outside of the prisons, including groups in Greenville, Pickens and Anderson counties.

Below are the names of the individuals who entered pleas last week in connection with this ongoing investigation:

  • Edward Gary Akridge (a/k/a “Eddie Boss”, “G9”) pleaded guilty to Burglary, First Degree; Kidnapping, Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime, and Trafficking Methamphetamine, 400 Grams or More (Conspiracy). He was sentenced to 25 years.  
  • Gary Hastings Akridge (a/k/a “Butch”) pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams (Conspiracy). He was sentenced to 10 years suspended to 45 months followed by five years of probation.
  • Travis Dale Ashby pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams (Conspiracy). He was sentenced to 5 years. 
  • Joey Durant Atkins pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. He was sentenced to 7 days. 
  • Justin Kvalheim Babb pleaded to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy), two counts of Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams, and Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime. He was sentenced to 25 years suspended to 8 years followed by probation for 5 years.  
  • William Clinton Barkley pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana. He was sentenced to five years suspended to five years of probation. 
  • Zachary Andrew Chandler pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams and Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime. He was sentenced to 10 years. 
  • Amy Miranda Chastain pleaded to Distribution of Methamphetamine (Conspiracy). She was sentenced to 7 years suspended to 15 months on the Home Incarceration Program followed by 5 years of probation. 
  • Jacob Austin Collins pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams and Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime. He was sentenced to 10 years suspended to 5 years followed by probation. 
  • Bradley Justin Davis pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams (Conspiracy). He was sentenced to 45 months. 
  • Musa Ismail Glenn pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy), Failure to Stop for a Blue Light, Obstruction of Justice, two counts of Trafficking Heroin, 4-14 Grams, two counts of Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams, Trafficking Morphine, 4-14 Grams, and Trafficking Heroin, 4-14 Grams (Conspiracy).  He was sentenced to 18 years. 
  • Samantha Renee Hall aka Samantha Brown pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams, Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime, and Intimidation of a Witness. She was sentenced to 8 years. 
  • Robert Wayne Mahon pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy), Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams, Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin, Failure to Stop for a Blue Light, and Unlawful Possession of Firearm by Person Convicted of a Violent Offense. He was sentenced to 10 years. 
  • Joseph Matthew McClure pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy) and three counts of Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams. He was sentenced to 9 years.   
  • Christopher Robert Nix pleaded to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams (Conspiracy) and Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams. He was sentenced to 10 years suspended to 3 years followed by five years of probation. 
  • Brandi Nicole O’Bryant (a/k/a “Brandi Smith”) pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams. She was sentenced to 45 months. 
  • Scott Damien Pope pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy) and Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams. He was sentenced to 15 years.  
  • Antonio Marcus Smith pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams. He was sentenced to 9 years.
  • Alicia Brooke Stephens pleaded guilty to Trafficking Heroin, 4-14 Grams, Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams, Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams, Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin, and two counts of Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime. She was sentenced to 9 years. 
  • Charles Rickey Stephens, Jr. pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy), Trafficking Heroin, 4-14 Grams, Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams, five counts of Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime, two counts of Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams, Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin, and Trafficking Heroin, 4-14 Grams (Conspiracy). He was sentenced to 20 years.   
  • Alicia Marie Sullivan pleaded guilty to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams (Conspiracy), Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin, and Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams. She was sentenced to 5 years. 
  • Vadrea Michelle Swope pleaded to Trafficking Methamphetamine, 10-28 Grams. She was sentenced to 40 months. 
  • Jodie Crenshaw Turner pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. She was sentenced to 427 days. 
  • Dustin Allen Wilson pleaded guilty to Trafficking Meth, 28-100 Grams (Conspiracy), four counts of Trafficking Methamphetamine, 28-100 Grams, and Possession of a Weapon During a Violent Crime. He was sentenced to 15 years. 

Assisting the grand jury division in this ongoing criminal investigation are the following law enforcement agencies:

  • South Carolina Law Enforcement Division,
  • South Carolina Department of Corrections’ Division of Police Services
  • Pickens County Sheriff’s Office
  • Greenville County Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit
  • Anderson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office
  • Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lexington County Sheriff’s Office
  • Laurens County Sheriff’s Office
  • Easley Police Department
  • Liberty Police Department
  • Pickens Police Department
  • South Carolina Governor’s Counterdrug Task Force (a unit of the South Carolina National Guard)

“Prison Empire” cases are being prosecuted by assistant attorney general Savanna Goude, who gained national fame as second chair to lead prosecutor Creighton Waters in the 2023 double homicide trial of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.

While Wilson’s office announced pleas for the above-named defendants, his office noted that all others charged in connection with the investigation were “presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.”

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

***

WANNA SOUND OFF?

Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.

***

Get our newsletter by clicking here …

*****

Related posts

Crime & Courts

Rose Petal Saga: Victim’s Boyfriend Acquitted On Custodial Interference Charge

Will Folks
Crime & Courts

SC1: Son Of South Carolina Congressional Candidate Arrested … Again

Will Folks
Crime & Courts

Marvin Pendarvis Investigation: Scope Expanding

FITSNews

Leave a Comment