Judge makes ruling after defendant in Jake’s Fireworks prosecution seeks to withdraw guilty plea
Published 12:38 am Sunday, October 9, 2022
A federal judge recently denied a motion for Jake Daughtry to withdraw his guilty plea.
United State Magistrate Judge Zach Hawthorne last week wrote in his ruling that Daughtry and his legal representation did not meet the requirements to withdraw his plea prior to sentencing.
In January, Daughtry, who was the leading defendant in a national drug case, pled guilty to conspiracy to possess and sell a date rape drug over the Internet for human consumption, maintaining a drug-involved premises and money laundering charges.
Daughtry was one of nearly a dozen arrested and indicted in July 2020 when federal agents raided Jake’s Fireworks in Nederland.
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.
The rest of the defendants signed plea deals.
In August, with new legal representation, Jake Daughtry filed to withdraw his plea due to the alleged mishandling of evidence by the government.
The Daughtry family filed a civil suit against the government, a third-party chemical company and a former US Attorney, who initially handled the case.
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.
However, Hawthorne wrote that neither the motion, nor the evidence proved Daughtry’s innocence. The judge also said several co-defendants entered plea agreements based on Daughtry’s guilty plea, which would negatively impact the court’s docket to undo the other cases, too.
According to the ruling, the judge also questioned the timing of the motion to withdraw the plea seven months after pleading guilty. He cited legal precedent shows any motion to withdraw a plea is considered “a significant delay that weighs against granting a withdrawal.”
Hawthorne also referenced Daughtry’s own confession during a court appearance with the judge on the record. According to the court record, one condition of Daughtry’s plea was his parents, who were also listed as co-defendants, would receive favorable treatment.
Sentencing for some defendants is scheduled for later this year.