The Richmond Register

February 4, 2013

Sentencing delayed in Chenault federal cocaine-trafficking case

Family members asking court for leniency

Register staff report

LEXINGTON — U.S. District Court officials have delayed the sentencing of a man who pleaded guilty last year to trafficking large amounts of cocaine in Madison County.

Jakolbe “Kolbe Cheese” Chenault was scheduled for sentencing Monday morning in Lexington. He pleaded guilty two days before he was to stand trial in October to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, according to federal court documents.

Chenault’s sentencing has been rescheduled to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Kyle Edelen, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

In the plea agreement, Chenault admitted he was supplied with cocaine by Ruben Catching, who was his business partner at a Richmond clothing store named JaRu’s New Fashions. The men used the store to launder money gained from the drug trafficking, Chenault admitted in the agreement. (Catching also is known by a vulgar nickname.)

Nearly a dozen people were arrested in connection with the drug ring in 2011, and more than three kilograms of cocaine and $99,0000 were found in Chenault’s girlfriend’s home in Louisville.

At the time of the Louisville raid, Chenault was four months into a one-year sentence for first-degree wanton endangerment after a intoxicated high-speed drive on Interstate 64, according to court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan Jr. indicated in the plea agreement that he would be seeking a sentence of 30 years in the case. Chenault also is classified as a career criminal based on his prior felony convictions.

In a state double-murder case, police court testimony and statements made to officers by members of the drug-trafficking ring have pointed to Chenault as having paid to have a man killed in 2010 whom he believed had stolen money from him.

The bodies of Charles “Chew” Walker and Sonsaray “Sonsi” Warford, Walker’s girlfriend, were found in March 2012 after they had been reported missing nearly two years earlier. Two men have been charged with carrying out the killings, Daniel Keene and Matthew Denholm. Lebruce Ellington, who also pleaded guilty to drug charges in the federal trafficking case, has been charged with conspiracy to murder.

Chenault has not been charged in connection with the killings. Madison County Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith said the case is still under investigation.

Chenault fights sentencing range

Chenault’s attorney Michael R. Mazzoli filed a sentencing memorandum Jan. 25, objecting to his client’s presentence assessment that set Chenault’s punishment range at 30 years to life in prison, according to the court document.

The memorandum stated that the U.S. attorney has not proven that Chenault was the ringleader of the trafficking ring, instead claiming that Catching was at least equal in rank if not superior to Chenault in the group.

Also, the memorandum claimed that other people associated with the trafficking ring have received less than the minimum sentences recommended by federal guidelines after they entered into plea agreements.

Catching was sentenced last year to 100 months in prison, and Chenault’s girlfriend, Christina Thieleman, received a sentence of 120 months.

The memorandum concluded with Mazzoli asking U.S. District Court Judge Joseph M. Hood to consider a sentence of 10 years in the case, arguing this term was not lenient because it would remove Chenault from his three children’s lives during their preteen years.

The U.S. attorney’s office filed a response Friday, stating testimony from Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Russel King at the sentencing hearing will refute Chenault’s claims that his sentencing range was set incorrectly.

Several letters have been entered into the official court record from Chenault’s family members, asking the judge for leniency.

Chenault’s father, Stone Chenault, said that his son was a hard worker from an early age, and with his “charm, wit and persuasion techniques,” he showed himself to be a natural salesman when working at his father's clothing store as a teen.

Stone Chenault said Jakolbe has never been a violent person, and he did not deserve to be “up with animals and other violent criminals for the rest of his life.”

Chenault’s sister, Sherialle Chenault, said her brother had already started to change his life when he was charged in the trafficking conspiracy, and this was “an example of a man's past catching up with him.”