COLUMBIA, SC (WIS)- A convicted drug dealer from Bishopville, who agreed to testify against former Lee County sheriff EJ Melvin, gave a federal jury a look inside the county's drug world Tuesday.
Quentin Davis, also known as "Young Buck," said dealers inside the county knew they had to "pay their dues" to Melvin, AKA "Big Dog" in order to do business there.
Davis is also the only witness in the case who will testify that Melvin delivered or dealt drugs during the four-year-long FBI investigation. He's also the man the FBI talked to about setting Melvin up when the federal investigation started in 2006.
Before the traffic stop, Davis told the jury about a trip he made to a store on Highway 15 South called "Sambo's." The store was then owned by a man named George Patel. Davis said Patel was supplying cocaine to dealers inside the county. Davis said Patel told him to drive around the back of the gas station and wait.
"I saw a gold Expedition pull around behind me," Davis testified. "It was the sheriff's truck…I got nervous, I was smoking a blunt." Davis said he never actually saw Melvin behind the wheel that day, but said he recognized the truck as the sheriff's SUV because of the police lights in the grille and side-view mirrors. Patel got out of the SUV, according to Davis, "He had a bag in his hand and asked me what I wanted. I told him a ‘Big 8,'" which is street slang for an eighth of a kilogram of cocaine.
In the FBI's affidavit, filed after Melvin's May 1 arrest, agents wrote that Davis said he saw a Patel "…get out of Sheriff Melvin's vehicle carrying a white grocery store bag," which held a kilo of cocaine. During his testimony Tuesday, Davis said he asked Patel, "was that the sheriff, and he said yeah."
Melvin denied Davis' claims as he left the courthouse Tuesday when WIS asked if he'd had any deals with Davis, "I have no comments, no sir, but I can't make no comments right now."
About a year later, well into 2007, Davis said he got a visit from Larry "Hawk" Williams, a co-defendant in the drug conspiracy case against Melvin. Davis said Williams told him, "Big Dog wasn't to talk to you." Williams called Melvin on a cell phone, then handed the phone over to Davis, "He said I had a charge…said he could help me with it." Davis said he gave the sheriff his car, a 1997 Nissan Maxima, as his first payment.
Months later, Davis said he started on a payment plan to Melvin that consisted of "10 to 15" payments to the then-sitting sheriff that lasted for about a year. "We called it paying dues," Davis told the jury. The "dues" paid to Melvin was all drug money, Davis said. Davis testified that he paid Melvin "numerous times," in person. The payments totaled around $2,000, according to Davis, but he said he only kept mental records of the payment totals.
"I was in a no-win situation, he could have been lying to me, he could arrest me. He could have been playing both sides of the fence," Davis said. The reason, "For protection, I guess," Davis told the jury.
Some time later, the FBI wired Davis and sent him into Lee County to conduct undercover drug buys. Davis is one year in to a 10 year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the federal drug charges last year.
Part of Davis' deal for testifying would earn him a reduced sentence, only if he provided "substantial assistance" to prosecutors, and provided his testimony was truthful. Davis is currently serving his time inside a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
If convicted on the charges, Melvin faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison.
Melvin's trial continues Wednesday morning at 9:30. The trial is open to the public.