The pleas of a Farrell man and his fiancée for leniency fell on skeptical ears when a federal judge sentenced the man Thursday.

Thomas A. Pierce Jr., 33, of 1226 Washington Ave., pleaded guilty in August to a charge of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine.

Federal officials said Pierce was one of 13 people indicted from a multi-year, multi-state network that brought cocaine from New York into the Shenango Valley and Youngstown.

Pierce’s attorney, Neal G. Atway of Youngstown, said the case caused Pierce and his family significant embarrassment.

“He had to explain himself to his family and friends and other people in the community,” Atway told U.S. District Court Judge Patricia A. Gaughan, Cleveland.

Atway noted that Pierce will lose the legitimate job he has had for 10 years, he had no prior criminal history, and has supported two children and has another on the way.

“There was never any indication that there was any violence or threats of violence in his activity,” Atway said.

According to Pierce’s plea agreement, Pierce has been working with Juan F. “Lenny” Melo, 38, of New York, and his father, Thomas A Pierce Sr., 56, of University Heights, Ohio, since at least January 2003 to distribute cocaine in the Shenango Valley.

Melo or others under Melo’s direction would bring kilograms — one kilogram is 2.2 pounds — of the drug into town from New York and pass it on to Pierce. Melo would then go to Youngstown and deliver cocaine to others for distribution.

Melo also would collect from Pierce tens of thousands of dollars raised from cocaine sales.

When Melo could not provide cocaine, Pierce Sr. did.

For sentencing purposes, Pierce and prosecutors stipulated the amount of cocaine he is responsible for is five to 15 kilograms.

Pierce’s fiancée, Tiffany R. Hopson, told the judge she is several weeks away from delivering a baby and they have been together 2è years.

“He’s a wonderful person,” she said. “He’s a good dad, a good son, a good fiancé. He takes care of me.”

People in the community love and respect him, she said.

“They’re really pulling for him,” she said.

“Not a very good role model, is he?” Judge Gaughan responded.

Ms. Hopson acknowledged that, but said Pierce knows what he did was wrong and what his children will have to go through.

“I know what I did was not a good role model,” Pierce said.

He told the judge he accepts responsibility for what he did and promised he will never appear before the judge again.

Atway asked for a sentence of 46 months in prison.

“I cannot, Mr. Atway, justify the sentence that you request,” the judge said, after setting a prison term of 50 months in prison, followed by 3 years’ supervised release.

While Pierce was given the benefit of accepting responsibility and not having a prior criminal record, a trial might have shown that he had a greater role in the conspiracy than he admitted in his guilty plea, Judge Gaughan said.

“I think he got a deal,” she said.

Atway also asked that Pierce, who has been free since May, be allowed to report for prison in late January, which would give him the opportunity to be present for the birth of his child and spend some time with the baby and Ms. Hopson after the birth.

Judge Gaughan said she will allow Pierce to self-report, but she will leave it up to the Bureau of Prisons to determine when he should report.

“I’m not going to interfere with that,” she said.

As part of his plea agreement, Pierce agreed to forfeit to the government $13,395 seized Oct. 20, 2005, at his former home; $5,000 seized Nov. 18, 2005, when he was arrested; a 2002 Chevrolet S-10 pickup; and a 2001 Jaguar 4S. The money and Jag were obtained through drug activity, and the pickup was used during criminal activity, according to his plea agreement.

Pierce’s stepmother, Fransheria R. Pierce, filed a claim to the Jaguar. She said Pierce sold the car to her. She has presented to the court an Ohio title dated Oct. 17 in her name and listing the previous owner as Thomas Pierce Jr. with an address of 1226 Washington St., Harrisburg. The car was seized from her home in April in University Heights, she said.

Ms. Pierce said she has never been involved in criminal activity but has “horrible credit” and “allowed the vehicle to remain in her stepson’s name until she made the final payment.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. Bulford of Akron said his office will contest her claim.

Pierce Sr. is awaiting trial.

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