Ron Shupe, 44, signed the plea agreement Monday admitting he possessed oxycodone with the intent to distribute, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and that he carried a firearm during the commission of drug trafficking, which carries five years to life in prison. He will officially plead guilty at a hearing Dec. 6 before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer. It was unclear if he will be sentenced that day or if it will be held at a later time.
Shupe was arrested Nov. 7 after a confidential informant for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sold oxycodone to the officer while he was in uniform, on duty, in his patrol car and armed. Immediately after the transaction, Shupe was surrounded by agents from the TBI, FBI and Tennessee Highway Patrol.
The drugs he had purchased were reportedly for Shupe and another officer, 61-year-old Sgt. Ken Lane. Lane was arrested the day after Shupe following a Johnson County grand jury indictment against the two men on multiple drug charges. Both officers were placed on unpaid administrative leave at that time.
According to court documents filed in the federal case, Shupe was under investigation by state and federal authorities for months. It began after another confidential witness, who was being held on drug charges in Ashe County, North Carolina, told Johnson County Sheriff’s Department investigators she obtained methamphetamine from Shupe. The informant also claimed she and Shupe shot up the drugs in his cruiser — five or six times between August 2016 and March 2017 — while he was in uniform and on duty. That was not the same informant Shupe bought drugs from just prior to his arrest Nov. 7.
Shupe’s plea agreement called for him to waive an indictment by the grand jury as well as an arraignment. He had already waived a detention hearing and remained in custody at the Washington County Detention Center.
In exchange for the plea, the government agreed to not prosecute Shupe “for any other non-tax criminal offenses,” he may have committed which were known to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors also agreed to not oppose a two-level reduction of sentence for his accepting responsibility for the offenses. Shupe agreed to not file a direct appeal of his conviction or sentence unless the judge imposes a sentence above any mandatory minimum requirements. He also agreed to not challenge any duration or conditions of supervised release or the judge’s determination whether any of his sentences will be consecutive or partially consecutive to any other sentence.
Shupe does maintain his right to file a motion as to prosecutorial misconduct not known at the time of the plea or ineffective assistance of counsel.
Lane was free on a $25,000 bond as of Tuesday afternoon. The reporting date in Johnson County Criminal Court for the most recent round of cases indicted by the grand jury is Nov. 28.