An Illinois man police said led the largest heroin trafficking organization in Walworth County was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for dealing heroin nearly five years ago.
Jamaal T. Shellie, his brother and his lawyer disputed how a Walworth County sheriff’s deputy and an assistant district attorney described Shellie’s role in the drug operation, his character, his need for treatment and his potential to help the community.
But Judge David Reddy said Shellie’s credibility did not stack up against the sheriff’s office investigation that yielded eight arrests.
“In my a little over four years with the narcotics unit, and in my nearly 14 years in law enforcement with the sheriff’s office, this was the largest heroin trafficking organization this sheriff’s office has ever dealt with,” Deputy Cory Newmann, a main investigator on the case, said in court.
“Jamaal Shellie was without question the leader of this organization.”
Reddy sentenced Shellie, 38, Waukegan, to 7½ years in prison on each of two counts of delivering fewer than 3 grams of heroin.
Reddy also added 10 years of extended supervision and denied access to prisoner rehabilitation programs.
Although Shellie’s lawyer, Jeramiah Maynard, emphasized his client was not charged or convicted of delivering large quantities of heroin, others maintained his involvement was deep.
Shellie was charged with seven counts of delivering heroin after police conducted controlled buys from him in January and February 2014. One year later, he pleaded guilty to two of the charges.
The court case was pending so long because of a legal error in how Reddy first sentenced Shellie in April 2015.
Shellie has served nearly 1,800 days in confinement. Maynard had asked for a 7½-year prison term, but Reddy ended up going with the same sentence length he decided nearly four years ago.
Newmann said his investigation included using confidential informants, conducting dozens of interviews, going undercover and listening to hours of jail calls. He brought to court a chart showing Shellie at the top of the organization with two other men.
Although Shellie was convicted of delivering fewer than 6 grams of heroin and charged with delivering fewer than 15, Assistant District Attorney Haley Johnson said Newmann’s investigation estimated Shellie had sold about 2½ pounds in four to six months.
Newmann spoke to one man who said Shellie, who was known as “Major,” sold heroin “all day, all night, seven days a week,” according to the criminal complaint.
Maynard urged the judge to focus on what Shellie was convicted of and not give too much weight to “speculation” from “compromised” sources.
Dure Shellie, who attended Monday’s hearing with their mother, said his brother was a “normal” and “good” person and not how others made him seem.
Shellie apologized to the court and said he was “very remorseful” for his role in “poisoning” the community. He said he would see opioid addicts in prison—identified first by marks on their arms—and apologize to them.
“I should be a part of the solution instead of the problem,” he said.
Doubting Shellie’s sincerity, Reddy denied Shellie’s request for the Challenge Incarceration Program and Substance Abuse Program, saying his presence would be a “mockery” to those programs.
“Mr. Shellie, you need to go away for a long time,” the judge said.