Key defendant in Jake’s Fireworks federal case to withdraw guilty plea

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The key defendant in the Jake’s Fireworks drug case filed a motion to withdraw a guilty plea two weeks from a scheduled sentencing hearing in light of new evidence.

Jake Daughtry, the leading defendant in the case, filed the motion to withdraw the plea in tandem with a pair of civil suits by the Daughtry family and their companies against a chemical company and the United States Attorney’s office.

The suit seeks $1 million in damages.

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In July 2020, the federal government indicted nearly a dozen people on charges ranging from drug trafficking conspiracy and money laundering.

The following were arrested: Jake Ellis Daughtry, 34; Joseph Ellis Daughtry, 64; Sandra Miller Daughtry, 72; Jordan Lee King, 31; Tanner John Jorgensen, 28; and Austin Wayne Dial, 28; all from Nederland were arrested. Others included Kip William Daughtry, 46, of Vidor; and Jesse Lee Hackett, 37, of The Woodlands.

Gary Wayne Landry and Joshua Wisneant were later arrested and charged in the case.

The government alleged the owners and employees of Jake’s Fireworks and Right Price Chemicals were knowingly selling 1,4 butanediol (BDO) for human consumption.

In 2021 the government dropped charges against Daughtry’s mother, Sandra Daughtry, and Jordan King, who was an employee at the business.

Other defendants enter sealed plea agreements. As of Tuesday, Jake Daughtry was the only defendant to withdraw his plea.

The civil suit, which was used as grounds for withdrawing the guilty plea, alleges the government knowingly presented fabricated evidence and went as far as covering up the act in a “document dump.”

The suit alleges at least 14 emails were altered with fabricated safety data sheets that were provided in criminal discovery by the U.S. attorney.

The suit names former U.S. Attorney Michelle Englade, who retired soon after a civil case by the government against the Daughtrys was dismissed for presenting altered emails. The dismissal allowed the Daughtrys to reopen their businesses on the condition they do not sell BDO.

“In addition to proffering and conveying fabricated documents — all the while possessing the legitimate emails — AUSA Englade has completely tainted the criminal discovery process and made knowingly false assertions on Daughtry’s defense counsel about criminal discovery,” the suit reads.

The court filing alleges Englade directed her team to produce vast amounts of discovery in the “least useful and usable formats possible to prevent the discovery of additional fabrications.”

Previous court records show the government presented more than 900,000 documents in discovery that took up nearly 5 terabytes of data. That amount is roughly a third of the entire Library of Congress. The Daughtry’s attorney wrote the fabricated documents were a “needle in a haystack.”

The suit also alleges the government presented fabricated emails in a .pdf format to intentionally strip meta data from the document, making it more difficult to prove fabrication.

The court filing alleges Joseph Daughtry reached out to the Drug Enforcement Agency about the selling of BDO. The agent allegedly told Daughtry she did not know about the chemical and said she would research the chemical and get back with him but never did.

In the indictment that detailed the undercover work by the government, witness testimony alleged that Kip Daughtry referred to BDO as “liquid gold” as he was selling to an undercover agent, thus proving the employees knew how the chemical was being used. The suit alleges a transcript of the interaction shows the agent was the one who referred to BDO as “liquid gold.”

Sentencing was set for Aug. 23, but the recent filings could cause more defendants to withdraw pleas.