Federal authorities can proceed in a case against alleged members of the largest methamphetamine drug ring in northern Arkansas after state drug charges were dropped Feb. 14 in Fulton County Circuit Court.
The alleged members of the drug ring -- Newton "Bubba" Willingham, Roy Madison Hurst, Duran Gene Willingham, Gregory Stephen Hurdle, Kermit Bill Comstock, and JoCasta Michelle Comstock -- are now in the custody of federal officials.
Fulton Circuit Judge Tim Weaver accepted Prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee's motion to decline prosecution under the provision that if the defendants are found innocent in federal court the state charges can be refiled.
Drug Task Force Chief Scott Russell said declining to prosecute the state charges allows the federal case to move forward.
Willingham, Hurst, Duran Willingham, Hurdle and the Comstocks were indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this month for their alleged involvement in a drug conspiracy ring that stretched from West Plains, Mo., to Viola, Melbourne and Pocahontas.
According to authorities, the drug ring produced approximately 150 pounds of methamphetamine from the summer of 2002 to the fall of 2004.
Each member of the conspiracy performed a specific task, with Willingham in charge of the entire operation, according to authorities.
Others allegedly connected with the conspiracy have been indicted and future charges are likely, Russell said.
A Salem man was sentenced to six years in prison for theft of property and criminal mischief in the first degree.
Joseph Michael Barr, 18, pleaded guilty to breaking into two Salem area churches and stealing money.
Weaver ordered Barr to pay $1,000 in restitution to Immanuel First Baptist and First Assembly of God Church.
James Naldo Arnold, 36, was sentenced to six years in prison for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
Arnold was arrested in September after leading law officers on a high speed chase from Ash Flat to Slick Rock Road near Cherokee Village. During the chase two police vehicles wrecked.