A man that narcotics agents termed one of the biggest drug dealers in Greenwood County was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday at the Greenwood County Courthouse.
Judge Frank Addy Jr. handed down the sentence on Maunwell Ervin after the jury returned the jury returned a guilty verdict on charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana within a half mile of a school, park or playground, and possession of a controlled substance. The jury was hung on charges of trafficking crack cocaine and possession of crack cocaine within a half mile of a school, park or playground, prompting Judge Addy to declare a mistrial on those two charges.
The trial was Ervin’s second trial on the five charges. The first trial, held in January, was declared a mistrial after a jury could not reach a verdict on the charges. Two jurors were dismissed from the jury this week, one as a result of alleged jury tampering by Ervin’s girlfriend, Rhenatta Lake. A bench warrant was issued by Judge Addy on Wednesday morning and Lake was taken into custody on charges of jury tampering and obstruction of justice around noon. Lake is being represented by Robert Tinsley and will appear before Judge Addy at a bond hearing Thursday morning.
Ervin was arrested in Dec. 2010 after agents with the Greenwood County Drug Enforcement Unit executed a search warrant at Ervin’s home, located at 316 Lawson Ave. According to the testimony of Capt. Jarvis Reeder, who is currently the chief investigator for the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office and was formerly the DEU commander, agents found eight bags of marijuana, each containing about 28 grams of the substance, along with approximately 127 grams of crack cocaine inside a bed post at Ervin’s home. Agents also found 21 ecstasy pills and a set of digital scales in the residence, according to Reeder.
The jury began deliberations shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday and passed a note to Judge Addy saying they were deadlocked at 10-1 at about 4:30 p.m. Judge Addy called the jury back into the courtroom and gave them what is known as an Allen Charge. In essence, an Allen Charge asks members of the jury to reconsider their positions in order to reach the necessary unanimous verdict. The jury deliberated for about another 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict on three charges and a deadlock on two charges.
During sentencing, deputy solicitor Aaron Taylor, who was the lead prosecutor on the case, told Judge Addy that Ervin had previously served more than 10 years in federal prison on drug charges and was still on parole with those charges. Taylor asked for the maximum sentence on the three charges, which is 21 years, and that the sentences be served consecutively.
“I respect the jury’s decision,” Taylor said following the sentencing. “This is a repeat offender and I’m glad we got him off the street. The narcotics unit could not have done a better job and I appreciate all their hard work on this case.”
“We’re going to be relentless in the pursuit of justice,” Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo added. “This is one of the biggest drug dealers in our community and we’re glad to have him off the street and behind bars for a number of years. Any time you can get a drug dealer off the street it’s a good day.”
Ervin was represented by Greenville attorney Lauren Taylor. Lauren Taylor argued that her client was not a resident of the home on Lawson Street and that there was no indication that the drugs belonged to him. Following the verdict and sentencing, she was visibly disappointed.
“Obviously, I support and respect the jury’s decision,” Lauren Taylor said. “I personally believe that the Solicitor did not meet the burden of proof. I feel like the 15 year sentence would have been more appropriate if (Ervin) had been convicted on all five charges, but I respect the judge’s decision. I hope the Solicitor does not waste any more taxpayer dollars by trying this case a third time.”
Whether or not Ervin is tried again on the crack cocaine charges is still undecided, according to Stumbo. However, Stumbo did say that it is currently his intention to try Ervin on those charges again.