Johnson sheriff candidate facing drug, weapons charges
by By Ralph Davis
PIKEVILLE — A man who had announced he would be running for Johnson County sheriff will instead face a federal grand jury to answer drug trafficking charges.
John T. Kline, 43, of Hager Hill, appeared Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins to answer drug and weapons charges. Atkins found probable cause to send the matter to a grand jury for further consideration.
According to an affidavit by Ronald Sabotchick, a senior special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the ATF first began investigating Kline June 26, after receiving information from a confidential informant.
According to the affidavit, the informant told Sabotchick that Kline had been boasting of being “one of the largest pill dealers in Johnson County” and advised that Kline carried a 9 mm firearm. Further, the informant told Sabotchick that Kline had asked about acquiring explosives from the informant, in order to “get even with someone for making a controlled narcotics purchase from him.”
Sabotchick alleges in the affidavit that the informant and Kline had a conversation June 27, during which the informant asked Kline “if he would be interested in having someone kill and/or harm the person Kline wanted to get even with,” to which Kline agreed. He offered to pay the informant with 20 30-milligram Oxycontin pills to put explosives in the person’s car, “because that person had worn a wire for the police when making a drug buy from him.”
On July 4, the affidavit notes that the informant recorded a conversation with Kline, during which the two allegedly discussed going out of town with two other people to fill prescriptions. The two also discussed delaying the revenge plot, because “there would be too much publicity and a lot of attention would be on him.” The two also discussed Kline selling the informant 100 30-milligram oxycodone tablets for $3,000 and made arrangements to conduct the transaction the following day, at the informant’s place of business.
Sabotchick says in the affidavit that the ATF provided the informant with $3,000 to buy the pills and placed audio and video recording equipment in the business. Kline arrived at the business at 5:45 p.m., July 5. The informant allegedly gave Kline the money in exchange for the pills, after which Kline allegedly brandished a loaded Kel-Tec 9 mm pistol.
Officers of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the audio and video recordings and relayed to Sabotchick that the recordings accurately reflected the informant’s story.
Kline has been charged with distribution of a controlled substance and carrying a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking crime.
No further hearings on the case have been scheduled, while the grand jury considers the case.
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