State News

Ex-Robeson Deputy Sentenced to 20+ Years

Posted October 17, 2007 5:08 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2007 6:53 p.m. EDT

— The first of 20 former law officers to be sentenced as part of a nearly five-year state and federal investigation into corruption at the Robeson County Sheriff's Office will spend more than 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of slightly more than eight years for former Robeson County Deputy Patrick Ferguson because he had cooperated with investigators. Defense lawyers sought a sentence of five years in prison for his guilty plea related to the kidnapping and attempted robbery of two drug dealers.

Ferguson's lawyer, Robert Nunley, of Raleigh, asked the court for mercy and said his client had cooperated fully with investigators and has three children ages 4, 6 and 7. Ferguson, who apologized to the court and his family, also has no money and no vehicle, Nunley said.

"He tried to right the wrongs that he participated in," Nunley said.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle said that because Ferguson was a law officer he should have known better.

Boyle said a minimum sentence under federal guidelines called for a sentence of at least 255 months – just over 21 years.

Te judge on Tuesday sentenced Ferguson to 130 months for conspiring to kidnap two Virginia drug dealers and trying to rob them, and 120 months for using a gun during that felony.

Ferguson was also fined $20,000 and sentenced to five years of supervised probation when he is released.

"His conduct is about as egregious as can be conceived in a society that depends on the rule of law ... and for the law itself," Boyle said. "I'm sorry for you, but you had those choices all the way through."

Before the sentencing, Mark Francisco, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, provided information on Ferguson's involvement in the case called Operation Tarnished Badge. Boyle asked him to return to the stand and provide more detail to show the extent of the case.

Francisco said before the SBI began focusing on Ferguson, authorities were only aware of three instances in which Ferguson and others had robbed and sometimes beaten or kidnapped drug dealers.

Through the probe of Ferguson, Francisco said investigators learned of 26 more crimes Ferguson took part in, beginning in 2002.

They started with him robbing a drug dealer that had just left the home of Ferguson's cousin, a convicted felon. He said Ferguson turned on his blue lights and pulled over the dealer who fled. The agent said his cousin, James "Bo" Black, took money from the car and split it with Ferguson. He said Ferguson was having financial problems at the time.

Francisco said the crimes continued, becoming more brazen.

Black received 250 months in prison and 5 years of supervised probation in connection with the case.

Three more cases were continued to a later date, including that of Vincent Sinclair.

During, what attorneys called an unprecedented move, Sinclair addressed Boyle for more than an hour about how he was being treated unfairly by investigators with whom he cooperated in the case.

"I've worked with the government, and I've done what they asked," he said. "Yet, I'm treated the worst."

Sinclair admitted to some wrongdoing and that he should be punished but said he was not guilty of what he is charged with.

"I am totally disgusted with myself. I am totally disgusted with myself – with the embarrassments it's put on me and my family," he said.