A Jefferson County jury on Monday took 15 minutes to find a former Arkansas Department of Correction officer guilty of attempting to bring drugs into Tucker prison in 2016 and another hour to determine his punishment.
Deputy Jefferson County Prosecutor Bryan Achorn said the jury of nine women and three men recommended a sentence of five years in prison and an alternate sentence of 10 years probation, along with a fine of $15,000, for DeJuan Wills. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis chose the alternate sentence of probation.
Wills, 33, was caught with six packages of what corrections officials initially thought was marijuana but was later determined to be plant material that had been sprayed with K-2.
“There was approximately 50 grams, and that is a significant amount,” said Achorn, who, with Deputy Jefferson County Prosecutor Carol Billings, represented the state during the one-day trial.
Wills was taken into custody after he reported for work at the Tucker Unit on June 6, 2016.
After coming through the main entrance once, he went back to his vehicle, then came back inside a second time. He went through the metal detectors and a second device that checks for metal too small to be picked up by the initial detector.
When Wills took off his work boots, Sgt. Johenella Marshall noticed that one of the insoles was loose; when it was pulled up, Marshall found three individually packages of a green vegetable substance. Three individual packages were also found in the other boot.
Achorn said Maj. Steven Ricketts, who was chief of security at the time and is now a warden, was summoned, as was the warden on duty. The Arkansas State Police were also called to investigate. At the trial, Ricketts testified about the training Wills had received and told of the extreme danger and significant safety risks to other corrections officers and prisoners that a drug like K-2 can create.
When he testified, Wills said he had been threatened and his car had been blown up, but Achorn said he never reported the threats, and the explosion or fire involving the car was never investigated.
“We’re very pleased with the verdict and sentence,” Achorn said. “This office has taken note of the significant damage and injuries that a substance like K-2 can cause, and we are tasked to do everything we can to take people who are dealing the drug to trial and to seek significant penalties.”