CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In a packed church on Charleston's West Side, seven people were offered a way out of the drug and violence riddled futures for which they seem headed.
They are U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's "B-listers" in the joint Drug Market Intervention initiative recently started on the West Side. They met Thursday evening at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church on First Avenue.
As part of the initiative, Goodwin will seek maximum federal penalties against the nine "A-list" offenders, while offering a second chance to the lower-level "B-listers." If they don't take him up on the offer, they'll find themselves on the "A-List."
The offenders sat with members of the community behind them and law enforcement leaders in front. Photographs of the "A-listers," along with a list of their charges and possible maximum sentences, lined the walls. One "A-lister," Tre Davis, 23, is facing up to 110 years in federal prison.
"Serious time awaits you in federal prison if you don't take us up on this offer," Goodwin told the group. "We have ironclad cases on each one of you. We have drug buys on each one of you."
The offer only stands if the offenders can stay on the right track, Goodwin said. One slip could earn a visit to the federal courthouse.
Because the "B-listers" have not been formally charged, authorities declined to release their names.
"You're not going to be letting us down," Goodwin said standing before a table of about a dozen federal and local authorities. "You're going to be letting these community members down and letting yourselves down."
Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook spoke briefly. The same initiative was used in Huntington's Fairfield neighborhood, which at one time accounted for 60 percent of the city's drug and violent crimes. After the initiative, it's down to about 10 percent.
"You all have made mistakes, but it stops now," Holbrook said. "Everybody's pretty sick of this.
"This program will work if you allow it to work. It reconnected and fixed a fracture in the community I serve. It can do the same here."
Special Agent Bob Negro of the Drug Enforcement Agency told the "B-listers" about a case he worked in Chicago. A man was given a second chance and took it, but when the opportunity came to make quick cash by selling drugs, he took that, too. He was found five years ago in a shallow grave, shot to death and wrapped in plastic garbage bags.
Several offenders were brought to tears during the intervention.
Bev Burton, who grew up on the West Side, told them she had been in their shoes before but wasn't offered a second chance. She warned them to stay on the straight and narrow.