A Clay County drug dealer who pleaded guilty, avoiding possible prosecution for the slaying of a reputed informant, has asked to rescind his plea.
Jimmy D. Benge agreed to a 20-year sentence for selling pain pills.
However, Benge wants to withdraw his plea because he felt rushed into making the deal and thinks a 20-year sentence is longer than he deserves, his attorneys said in a motion.
Federal prosecutors oppose letting Benge take back his admission of guilt.
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U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar has not ruled on Benge's request.
A federal grand jury charged that Benge, Gerald Lee Sizemore and Renus "Red" Delph conspired to kill Eli Marcum in Clay County in December 2012 because of a suspicion that Marcum had given police information on Benge's drug operation.
Benge was charged with leading a drug ring in which he arranged for addicts and drug runners to get pill prescriptions at out-of-state clinics, then sold the pills in Clay County.
Benge allegedly paid Sizemore to kill Marcum.
Delph said he saw Sizemore stab Marcum so deeply that he "effectively skewered" Marcum's midsection, and then dumped his body on an old logging road.
Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty for Benge, Sizemore and Delph, but the three avoided that potential by pleading guilty.
Benge, 52, pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to sell pain pills. Sizemore pleaded guilty in the drug conspiracy and to illegally possessing a gun. Marcum's family agreed to the deals in part because of a concern over a challenge to the charges.
Defense attorneys had argued the charges should be dismissed because a former state police detective improperly disposed of some evidence before the defense could have it tested.
The plea deals required a sentence of 20 years for Benge and 15 for Sizemore. Benge also would have to pay $23,500 in lieu of the government seizing his home, and $6,500 to cover the cost of Marcum's funeral.
In the request to withdraw Benge's plea, his attorneys said Benge maintains he is innocent in Marcum's murder and thinks his role in the drug conspiracy has been exaggerated.
Facing a potential death-penalty prosecution and a deadline from prosecutors to firm up the plea agreement, Benge thinks he was "rushed and pressured" into taking the deal, according to the motion from defense attorneys Robert E. Norfleet and Christopher W. Adams.
Benge, a disabled former coal miner, also thought Thapar would reject the plea deal, which would result in Benge getting to take it back, the motion said.
Benge acknowledges he sold pills to support his addiction but argues he was not a leader in the drug ring, his attorneys said.
As a result, 20 years would be an excessive sentence, Benge argues.
In response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason D. Parman said Benge was suffering a "classic case of buyer's remorse" over the 20-year sentence but has not shown a sufficient reason to be allowed to withdraw his plea.
Benge had the benefit of help from two top attorneys and plenty of time to consider the plea, Parman argued in a court motion.
Benge requested a specific sentence during the negotiations, and that's what the deal contains, Parman said.
Benge also acknowledged he was a leader in the drug operation, organizing trips to Florida to get prescriptions and figuring out ways to get them filled, according to Parman's motion.
Parman said allowing Benge to take back his plea would hurt Marcum's family and the government, which could have a tougher time prosecuting Benge now, in part because some witnesses would not be available