A South Carolina man arrested in Knox County after sheriff’s deputies located two pounds of marijuana, more than $8,000 in cash and a loaded handgun in his pickup truck pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges Tuesday.
Joe Barlow Owens, 44, of Blacksburg, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to distribute 50 or more grams of Methamphetamine, and possession of a firearms in the furtherance of a drug trafficking offense at his rearraignment hearing in U.S. District Court in London.
Owens is scheduled to return to court at 10 a.m. on June 30 for formal sentencing.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky stated that Owens faces 15 years, to life in prison and a maximum fine of $20 million for the trafficking offense. However, the presiding judge is not bound by the guidelines and may elect to impose a sentencing above or below the guidelines.
Owens was initially charged in Knox District Court. However, the case moved to federal court in July when a federal grand jury returned the indictment charging him.
Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Mikey Ashurst arrested Owens after discovering his truck parked outside of a gate on Buchanan Drive off of the Corbin bypass at approximately 4 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2019.
Deputy William Stewart, the department’s public affairs officer, said previously that Ashurst determined that Owens, and a passenger in the vehicle, identified as Stephanie L. Brock, 34, of Rockholds, were both under the influence of an unidentified controlled substance.
Upon searching the vehicle, Ashurst located the methamphetamine and marijuana, along with other drugs, paraphernalia, and the handgun.
According to the plea agreement a portion of the methamphetamine was located under the driver’s seat, which the remainder was hidden under the hood.
“The defendant possessed his firearm to protect against robbery of his methamphetamine and drug proceeds,” the plea agreement stated.