A Clark County man who investigators say headed up a large marijuana drug-trafficking ring in Columbus was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in federal prison.
Antwane J. Rhodes, 34, of Springfield, had tried in February to have the six charges against him dropped by arguing that he’d been discriminated against because he lives in a state that hasn’t legalized marijuana.
That argument didn’t fly with U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson. Yesterday, he ordered the prison term on two charges: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and money laundering. He also ordered Rhodes to pay a $5,000 fine.
Rhodes, also known as “Rho,” said his arrest has been a “humbling reality for me” and he hopes “ one day I can show the court and society that I’m a worthy gentleman.”
John Paul Rion, Rhodes’ attorney, didn’t bring up the discrimination argument during the sentencing hearing.
Watson had rejected it last month, noting that Rhodes had pleaded guilty in September to the drug-conspiracy and money-laundering charges and had not brought up the discrimination claim at that time.
Watson also wrote that, when Rhodes was charged in June, marijuana was still illegal in the states that Rhodes mentions in his arguments — Washington and Colorado — “and violators of federal law were presumably charged” at that time.
Rhodes was arrested in June after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of conspiring to traffic in marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and laundering the profits from the marijuana trafficking.
The indictment says he laundered drug money through a fake company and by buying expensive items.
Watson also issued a preliminary forfeiture order against numerous items that investigators from the Internal Revenue Service believe Rhodes purchased with drug proceeds. They include a 2010 Camaro, two other vehicles, a Gucci watch, an Elini diamond watch, four pairs of diamond earrings, a diamond bracelet and a 4.84-carat diamond ring. The judge will make a final determination on the forfeiture of the items at a later time.
“You proved to be a fairly successful entrepreneur in terms of your marijuana operation,” Watson said.
Columbus police officers said during previous court hearings that Rhodes was one of two leaders of a drug-trafficking ring operating from 2007 to 2010. Rhodes brought in marijuana shipments from Mexico that ranged from 100 to 1,800 pounds at a time, they said. The ring was part of a larger drug-trafficking ring that also distributed cocaine.
After the sentencing, Rion said he had filed the marijuana-legalization argument because he believes the issue needs to be litigated. He said “a consistent national policy” is needed, since possession of marijuana is a federal offense but some states have legalized the possession of small amounts.
Four other Springfield men already have been sentenced in the case. Marc Clark, 32, the other ringleader, was sentenced to seven years in prison.
By Kathy Lynn Gray - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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