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Lester pleads not guilty to federal drug charge

By Staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Shawn Thomas Lester, who admitted involvement in one of three sniper-style killings in 2003, pleaded not guilty Thursday to an unrelated federal drug charge.

Lester, 37, was indicted by a federal grand jury in July on one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and cocaine. Prosecutors say the activity happened near Sissonville from 2005 to around March 30 of this year.

Lester was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary E. Stanley, who set an Oct. 15 trial date. He will have a pretrial hearing on Sept. 26 at 1:30 p.m.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted on the drug charge.

Last month, Lester pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Jeanie Patton, 31, who was killed by a bullet from a .22 caliber Magnum Marlin as she was pumping gas at a Speedway in Campbells Creek on Aug. 14, 2003.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop three first-degree murder charges Lester faced in the deaths of Patton, Okey Meadows Jr. and Gary Carrier Jr.

Meadows, 26, was killed outside a Cedar Grove convenience store by a bullet from the same gun about an hour and a half after Patton. Four days before, Carrier, 44, was shot to death with the same gun at a Charleston gas station.

Lester will be sentenced Aug. 31 on that charge and faces up to 40 years in prison. Prosecutors have said they will ask Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom for a 30-year sentence.

Lester also faces sentencing on a federal gun possession charge, which he pleaded guilty to earlier this year. Prosecutors have said photos of Lester holding a gun were discovered during the investigation of the sniper case. They say the photos are from 2007, when Lester - a convicted felon - would not have been allowed to have a firearm.

Sentencing in the gun possession case was scheduled for June, but U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. postponed it after Lester's attorney warned that testimony at the federal sentencing could impact the upcoming murder trial.


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