NORTH ADAMS -- A Bronx, N.Y. man, who police say is the kingpin of a crack-cocaine distribution ring in the Northern Berkshires, is being held in the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction on $100,000 cash or $1 million surety bail following his arraignment in Northern Berkshire District Court on Friday.
Clifton Sumlin, 41, pleaded not guilty to single counts of distribution of crack-cocaine and a drug violation in a school zone, stemming from an alleged sale of crack-cocaine to an informant of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force in the parking lot of Big Y in September 2007.
Judge Michael J. Ripps set his bail at $100,000 cash after hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense attorneys. His case was continued until Sept. 7, when it is expected to be bound over to Berkshire Superior Court.
Sumlin was arrested on an outstanding warrant in the city Thursday after being recognized by a North Adams Police officer who was patrolling the Eagle and Hudson streets neighborhood.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Sims asked for Sumlin’s bail to be set at $200,000 cash bail, citing information provided by officers of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force that alleges Sumlin was the kingpin of a crack-cocaine distribution network in the Northern Berkshires from 2007 to 2009 with ties to a larger organization based in the Bronx.
"We’re asking that his bail be set at $200,000 to ensure his return
He added, "[Sumlin] has numerous drug convictions and numerous known aliases. He is also known to use different Social Security numbers and he does not have a permanent address in Massachusetts. It is also believed, that because of his association with known drug dealers in the area, that he has access to large amounts of cash. In 2009, a sting operation involving his known associates recovered $20,000 in cash."
Sims alleged that Sumlin’s known associates include multiple suspects and convicted dealers associated with the distribution ring, including Antoine Phoenix, Jesse Sprague and Ronnell Garmie, who was charged with stabbing Daniel J. Walters to death during a drug-related fight at the Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park in 2008. Murder charges were later dropped in that case by the state, after a Massachusetts State Police investigation determined Garmie acted in self defense.
Attorney Mark Pasquarillo, Sumlin’s court appointed attorney, argued that his client’s bail should be set at $1,000 cash bail.
"All I have is a three-page probable cause report from 2007 about a controlled buy," he said. "That report is entirely dependent upon whether or not [the police informant] is still around. I have nothing to suggest that Mr. Sumlin has any ties to Jesse Sprague or the people involved at the trailer park."
Pasquarillo added, "Attorney Sims suggests the Mr. Sumlin is the leader of a drug ring and travels frequently between Berkshire County and New York City. I ask you to look at this with a cautious eye. Why is it that it’s taken the Task Force five years to arrest him? I also simply caution you that Mr. Sumlin has had no other charges from the state, except for the charges from a single incident in 2007."
He also stated that Sumlin lives with his mother and is unemployed. He also questioned why the warrant for Sumlin’s arrest was issued in December 2008, over a year after the alleged sale occurred.
Sims stated that it is believed that Sumlin was in North Adams because "it was around the time of welfare check distribution" and that most of his deals involve residents "of housing projects."
According to a police report filed by members of the Drug Task Force in 2008, officers pursued Sumlin, also known as "Clapp," for a year, which included an unsuccessful search warrant executed at the Travel Lodge in Pittsfield.
The report also listed Sumlin’s prior convictions in New York and Ohio, which date back to 1988. According to the report, Sumlin’s past convictions include the sale of cocaine, the possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, attempted murder, criminal use of a firearm, burglary and theft by deception.
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