Drug defendant gets 30-year prison term

ALBANY, Ga. -- A man who reneged on a plea deal that would've sent him to prison for 27 years must now spend 30 years in a federal prison following a sentencing hearing Thursday.

Jerome Fletcher was taped by a government informant speaking about the defendants in a massive marijuana trafficking operation discovered in Lee County in 2007.

Fletcher later pleaded guilty to one count of possession of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 360 months, or 30 years, by Judge Louis Sands. Once released, Fletcher must also serve an additional six years on supervised release. There is no early release in the federal system.

Fletcher admitted selling 5.3 grams of crack to a government informant June 8, 2008. He was originally also indicted for using his 13-year-old nephew to facilitate a drug transaction, but that charge was later dropped.

Had Fletcher gone to trial, he would've faced a life term given that officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office intended to use Fletcher's former drug convictions in Dougherty Superior Court in aggravation.

Authorities relied on information from a confidential informant, later identified as Jeff Boyd, to indict Fletcher. Boyd's confidential status was pulled by federal authorities when warrants against him were issued for failing to cooperate with authorities in an ongoing public corruption investigation.

During hearings in federal court, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Nikki Rhodes testified that the GBI had wired Boyd with video and audio surveillance equipment in order to capture Fletcher dealing crack and methamphetamines.