Friday, most of the defendants indicted as suspects in two cocaine distribution conspiracies announced earlier this month pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
District Attorney General Dave Clark says that trial dates have already been set for the alleged participants in both drug trafficking rings, with suspects in a Knoxville-based operation set for July 2017 trials and those in an Oak Ridge-based conspiracy in September of 2017.
31 defendants—including two named in both conspiracies—appeared in court on Friday. Most pleaded not guilty to the charges against them while others reserved the right to enter a plea and some arraignments were rescheduled for July 1st.
Each of the suspects faces charges of engaging in a conspiracy to distribute over 300 grams of cocaine and all but one face enhanced charges of conducting their alleged criminal activity in a drug-free school zone. The conspiracy charges are Class A felonies, the most serious crime one can be charged with in Tennessee outside of capital murder. If convicted, first-time offenders face prison sentences of 15 to 25 years. If convicted on operating in a drug-free school zone, the penalty would be enhanced, meaning that the suspect would serve 100% of their sentence.
Local and state officials announced the indictments earlier this month.