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Tuesday, 10 October 2017 17:39

Tillmon gets 15 years in Operation Rockfish

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Antonio Tillmon Monday faced his fiancee in a jailhouse wedding ceremony. Today he faced a federal judge in a sentencing for his role in the Operation Rockfish police corruption case.

United States Judge Malcolm Howard sentenced Tillmon to serve 15 years in prison. Tillmon, a former Windsor police officer, was the only one of the so-called Rockfish 15 to plead not guilty in the corruption case. The other defendants were sentenced over the course of two days this summer.

Before his sentencing in Greenville this morning, in which he also received five years of supervised release following his prison term, Tillmon told Howard, “Thank you for your hard work.”

He also thanked his legal team of Paul K. Sun Jr. and Kelly Dagger for their work on his case.

“I’m sorry for everything that transpired,” he said. “I will live out my life helping people.”

Fresh from his marriage Monday at the Pitt County Detention Center, which Sun referenced before sentencing, Tillmon walked into the courtroom smiling at his family, which included his bride, Shokya and their 7-week-old son, Antonio Jr.

After last-minute objections were heard, Sun spoke on behalf of his client. “Every case is different, each defendant is different … 15 years is sufficient.”

Sun spoke of Tillmon’s devotion to his family. “He is a loving husband, a loving father and grandson. He’s a friend. Mr. Tillmon is always the one to have a helping hand. He’s an incredibly hard worker.”

Sun said his client worked when he was studying at Chowan University. “That’s what he’ll be when he walks out of prison.”

Tillmon was never a drug dealer, Sun said, and he won’t become one. “There’s no chance of recidivism. Everybody said Mr. Tillmon was a good cop.”

At 33, Sun said his client “will have a long life to live when he leaves prison.”

Molly Gaston, an assistant United States attorney, said, however, Tillmon participated in three operations where purported drugs and drug proceeds were shipped up and down the Eastern Seaboard. On the day of his arrest he had five weapons on him. “He minimized his own actions,” she said. “To date, the defendant never expressed remorse or responsibility for his actions. His co-defendants accepted pleas and responsibility.”

In a statement released by the United States Attorney’s Office this afternoon the government said Tillmon accepted $6,500 from undercover FBI agents posing as drug traffickers in return for transporting a total of 30 kilograms of heroin from North Carolina to Maryland on three separate occasions between August 2014 and April 2015.  

On each occasion, Tillmon carried with him his Windsor Police Department badge and a firearm, and was prepared to use his badge and fake documentation to evade drug interdiction by legitimate law enforcement.  The evidence at trial also showed that Tillmon was poised to participate in another drug run on a fourth occasion the day he was arrested.

Tillmon went into today’s proceeding with two counts against him dropped.

Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp, whose office received the initial complaints of police corruption said of the sentence, “The court has spoken.”

Outside the courthouse following the proceedings, Mrs. Tillmon, her eyes still streaked with tears, said her husband is in good spirits despite the circumstances. “His spirits are high. He’s happy.”

She said her husband is already on a road to becoming a better person. “He just got caught up in a wrong situation. He just got caught up with the wrong people. He has a strong faith in God. I’m hurt but I’m happy.”

Mrs. Tillmon said her husband’s attorneys served as witnesses for the Monday wedding ceremony. “It was beautiful.”





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