MEMPHIS, Tennessee — A gang member convicted of working as an enforcer for a violent Memphis-based drug ring with ties to Mexican cartels was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.
Clinton Lewis was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays on numerous charges in Memphis federal court .
Lewis and his cousin Martin Lewis were convicted in March 2012 of being active members of a drug organization led by Craig Petties, who allegedly began selling drugs as a teen in south Memphis before he was charged with being an international drug kingpin and became a fugitive featured on "America's Most Wanted." About 70 witnesses testified and 300 pieces of evidence were admitted during their trial, one of the largest federal drug trials ever held in Tennessee.
Petties' drug ring used Memphis as a home base for the South to distribute cocaine that the Beltran Leyva drug cartel in Mexico shipped to Memphis in semitrailers, witnesses and prosecutors said during the trial.
Former gang members testified that the Lewises provided muscle for the organization, which sold the cocaine in Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina.
Gang members coldly spoke of stealing drugs from each other, organizing kidnapping plots, and killing suspected snitches and others who were perceived as threats to the organization. They met the trucks at area hotels and picked up the cocaine before breaking it up for distribution. They bought jewelry, multiple homes and vehicles with drug profits, prosecutors and gang members said.
About 40 gang members, including Petties, have pleaded guilty to participating in the drug ring from 1995 to 2008. Many already have been sentenced, some to prison terms of more than 30 years. Petties has not been sentenced yet.
The Lewis cousins are the only members of Petties' organization to go to trial. Clinton Lewis' lawyer, Anne Tipton, said she plans to appeal his conviction.
After he was indicted in 2002, Petties fled the country, and was placed on the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most-Wanted List before he was captured in January 2008 in Mexico. In December 2009, he secretly pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering and hiring hit men to kill four people who were perceived threats to the organization. Prosecutors did not publicly announce the guilty plea until February 2011.
Clinton Lewis received life sentences on charges of racketeering conspiracy; aiding and abetting murder in aid of racketeering; kidnapping; conspiracy to commit murder for hire; and cocaine distribution. He received 20 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering. The sentences will run concurrently.
Lewis was acquitted of a murder charge in the September 2006 fatal shooting of Marcus Turner, the same man he was convicted of kidnapping. Witnesses testified that Lewis kidnapped Turner under orders from Petties because gang members believed he could lead them to someone who had stolen cocaine from the organization. Jurors acquitted him of the murder charge because no one testified that they saw him pull the trigger. Turner's nude body was found in Olive Branch, Mississippi
Clinton Lewis also was convicted of helping to arrange the 2007 murder of Mario McNeal at a Memphis restaurant. Petties wanted him dead because McNeal allegedly had threatened to kidnap Petties' mother and hold her for ransom. Martin Lewis was convicted of fatally shooting McNeal, and is scheduled to be sentenced June 14. He faces life in prison.
Judge Mays noted a lack of remorse from both men.
"Neither of them has accepted any responsibility in these matters," Mays said.