‘Open drug market’ leads to jail sentence: 3 guilty pleas follow 5 LaPlace arrests from November 2015

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LAPLACE — The arrests of five men for what police described as an “open drug market” in 2015 concluded last month with two guilty pleas and a LaPlace man facing more than two years in jail.

Ephraim Williams, 41, of LaPlace pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute marijuana May 23, receiving eight years with the Louisiana Department of Corrections on each count.

Ephraim Williams

St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut said Williams must serve two years of his sentence before he is eligible for parole or probation.

Damion Davis, 37, of LaPlace, arrested in the same case, also pleaded guilty May 23 to possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was placed on three years active probation.

Damion Davis

Dinvaut said Davis’ plea, which included a 5-year suspended jail sentence, was agreed to because “it was his first offense.”

In corresponding moves, the District Attorney’s office dropped charges against Gary Davis, 58, and Jarvis Davis, 32, each of LaPlace.

The moves followed a 2016 plea from Milton Joseph Jr., 41, of Reserve, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug possession in the same case, Dinvaut said.

Milton Joseph Jr.

According to Dinvaut, Jarvis Davis was deemed incompetent to stand trial.

“There was a sanity commission, which was held previously, and he was not able to stand trial,” she said. “The case was dismissed against him due to our inability to go forward to trial and the lack of evidence that Jarvis had anything to do with the drugs other than being present at the time of the arrests.”

Dinvaut said Williams and Damion Davis “took responsibility for all the drugs that were seized.”

“Gary Davis owned the residence and was in the house when (police) executed the warrant,” Dinvaut said. “There was no evidence provided to the state that he was involved in any drug dealings. The case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence against him.”

All five men’s arrests took place Nov. 6, 2015, after four days of surveillance, according to the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Mike Tregre said the case began when deputies received multiple tips from community members about drug interactions at the Davis Court residence in LaPlace.

“We set up surveillance and we could observe an open drug market daytime and nighttime,” Tregre said in 2015. “There were multiple players in this case. We didn’t want to just catch one; we wanted to catch all the parties involved in this operation and this network. We wanted to see the entire system, all the players, the deliveries, the buyers, the sellers; you want to build a strong case.”

After executing a search and seizure warrant, deputies announced they recovered 16 grams of crack cocaine (estimated value of $1,600), 300 grams of marijuana (estimated value of $500) and 22 grams of synthetic marijuana (estimated value of $100) and a stolen handgun.

At the time of the arrests, the sheriff described the busts as “street-level dealing.”

Tregre said deputies watched drug transactions at the location day and night.

“It was a very good job done by the detectives,” he said at the time. “It was a lot of time sitting in the woods being eaten alive by mosquitoes conducting surveillance.