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Alleged drug trafficker pleads guilty to lesser offense

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    Iasha Tayanna Billingsley

A Tennessee woman charged with trafficking got a break in Jones County Superior Court and was allowed to plea to a lesser offense.

Iasha Tayanna Billingsley entered her guilty plea Aug 13 and received a sentence of 15 years for the lesser-included offense of VGCSA possession of fentanyl with the intent to distribute. The first 270 days of the sentence are to be served in confinement, and the remainder may be served on probation.

Billingsley was arrested Feb. 11 with codefendant Earnest D. Ervin, also from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

She was represented by public defender Tom O’Donnell, and Chief Superior Court Judge William Prior pronounced the sentence.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin prosecuted the case.

She told the court the pair was in possession of more than four grams of fentanyl when they were arrested.

Baskin said the arrests were the result of an undercover investigation by investigators with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department. The target of the investigation was a person in the federal prison system, and the drug deal was set up by the federal prisoner. The undercover deal was thought to be about heroin, but the drugs found in the car turned out to be fentanyl.

The prosecutor said Ervin brought the drugs from Chattanooga to the collection site, and Billingsley was a passenger in the car.

“The drugs were under the carpet and tested positive for fentanyl,” she said. Baskin said Billingsley told officers she was paid to ride with Ervin, but she did not know the details of the drug deal.

“Law enforcement said she was the least culpable and was not involved in the communication of the deal,” she said.

The prosecutor said, while Billingsley was not being charged with trafficking, she was in the vehicle with the drugs.

Because of law enforcement’s view of Billingsley’s involvement in the drug deal, Baskin said the state felt the plea to the lesser offense of possession with intent was the more appropriate charge.

The prosecutor added that Billingsley is to have no contact with her codefendant, and she would be banned from Jones County. Baskin said the defendant would be required to testify truthfully against Ervin, and Billingsley’s sentence may terminate after 10 years if all the rules and conditions are met.