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First of 30 defendants in new Montgomery County meth case pleads guilty

First of 30 defendants in new Montgomery County meth case pleads guilty

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CHRISTIANSBURG — Guilty pleas on Monday brought the first conviction in a new, 30-person methamphetamine case that is moving into Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Johnathan Scott Byers, 36, pleaded guilty to charges of distributing and conspiring to distribute a Schedule II drug, both stemming from an investigation that Montgomery County officials are calling Icy Roads. The case follows Montgomery County’s Operation Crankdown, which entered the courts in 2018 and led to convictions of all 22 defendants.

Like the Crankdown case, Icy Roads involves an alleged meth-running ring that brought the drug from suppliers in Georgia to a distribution network in Montgomery County. Prosecutors say they do not think the cases are connected. The Icy Roads investigation was led by Christiansburg police, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt has said.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz said Monday that if Byers’ case had gone to trial, witnesses would have testified that Byers acquired meth from Thomas George Belcher Jr., an Elliston man who the prosecutor called the “kingpin” in Icy Roads. Byers sold the meth from his residence in the county between Christiansburg and Radford, Wolz said.

Byers and defense attorney Matt Roberts of Blacksburg agreed that the prosecution had enough evidence for a conviction.

Byers was the first of 30 defendants in the Icy Roads case to resolve his charges. He also pleaded guilty to possessing meth with the intent to distribute it and driving while intoxicated, both linked to a traffic stop last year. Three additional drug- and driving-related charges were dropped in a plea agreement.

Judge Robert Turk imposed a sentence of 40 years in prison for each of Byers’ three felony charges, plus another 60 days for the intoxicated driving charge. The judge said the sentences would run concurrently for a total sentence of 40 years and would be suspended after Byers served five years.

In addition, Byers must pay $1,000 in fines, give up his driver’s license for a year, and be supervised by the probation office for 10 years after his release, Turk said.

Also in court Monday was one of two defendants from the Operation Crankdown case who have not yet been sentenced. Thelma Renee Keister, 48, of Blacksburg was to hear the penalty for a drug possession charge and a probation violation. But because a probation officer was not present, her hearing was rescheduled to September.

The other Crankdown defendant whose case remains unfinished, Terry Wayne Miller, 57, of Giles County, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

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Related to this story

Supplying a Montgomery County methamphetamine ring will cost a Georgia man five years behind bars – plus 40 years of probation after his release and the possibility of decades more in prison if he gets in trouble again, a judge said Wednesday. Marcus Sentell Robinson, 37, of Macon, was among 30 people charged in the Icy Roads case, which tracked a Georgia-to-Montgomery County meth supply chain.

An Ironto man's guilty plea last week brought the latest conviction in Montgomery County's Icy Roads methamphetamine case, in which 30 people were accused of taking part in a drug ring that stretched from Elliston to Georgia. Kenneth Wayne Raines, 65, is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

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