Federal judge: Fake emails not used to obtain indictment for Jake’s fireworks

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, December 29, 2021

NEDERLAND — A federal judge ruled in favor of the government in a motion by attorneys for the owners of Jake’s Fireworks and Right Price Chemicals in Nederland.

U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield ruled against a motion for defense attorneys to obtain a transcript of the grand jury proceedings that resulted in an indictment for Jake Daughtry and nine other defendants on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

In October, the defense for Daughtry claimed the federal government produced fabricated emails to a different federal judge in a civil case regarding the criminal allegations. As a result, all defendants were granted an injunction allowing Right Price Chemicals and Jake’s Fireworks to reopen.

Attorneys for Daughtry and his parents, who were also indicted, filed a motion to see if the same emails were presented to a grand jury.

This month, Heartfield denied the motion to obtain the transcript, stating the emails were never brought up in the testimony presented to the grand jury.

“The proper functioning of the grand jury depends on the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings,” the judge wrote. “…the party seeking disclosure must demonstrate that (1) the material he seeks is needed to avoid injustice in another judicial proceeding (2) the need for disclosure is greater than the need to continued secrecy and (3) the request is structured to cover only material so needed.”

The judge also wrote that the government’s position rests “on a representation made in a email by a former assistant United States Attorney that is no longer with the office.”

Five days after the Daughtry’s defense team filed the motion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office assigned Christopher Rapp as lead prosecutor on the case. Michelle Englade, who previously held the position, retired.

In July 2020, federal agents raided Jake’s Fireworks and Right Price Chemicals located on Twin City Highway in Nederland.

After the raid, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas released a 24-count indictment against 10 people alleging Right Price Chemicals acted as a front to distribute 1,4 Butanediol (BDO) for human consumption.

The chemical, which is manufactured as an industrial cleaner, is commonly used as a recreational drug. Federal agents said the chemical is also used as a date-rape drug and the indictment traced two deaths in other states back to BDO sold by Right Price Chemicals.

Defense for Daughtry have maintained that the chemicals were not sold with the intent for human consumption and compared the charges to indicting Walmart for people eating Tide Pods.

The trial is set for the start of the year.