Man gets life for murder-for-hire, drug trafficking in Walterboro | Crime | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 27, 2016 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 26, 2016 at 11:52 am
A Summerville resident, accused by the federal government of being a major supplier of crack cocaine in the Walterboro area, learned last week that his bid to derail his prosecution will end with him spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Martin Ballard, 34, of Summerville was ordered to serve life in prison plus an additional 10 years when he appeared before Senior United States District Judge Margaret B. Seymour for sentencing in Columbia on Oct. 19.
There is no parole in the federal system and life means life. Acting United States Attorney Beth Drake stated that the sentence sends a strong message that people who try to intimidate or harm witnesses will face heightened sentences. “The criminal justice system cannot and will not tolerate the kind of severe criminal wrongdoing Mr. Ballard orchestrated,” she said.
Evidence presented during the trial and sentencing established that Ballard, in addition to being a major drug trafficker, had orchestrated an attempt to kill the Walterboro-area man who was the main witness against him.
After Ivory Brothers of Walterboro — one of 13 Colleton County residents arrested in March of 2012 in connection with the federal drug investigation — cooperated with authorities, he was shot between 7 and 11 times outside his home on June 6, 2013.
Although grievously wounded, Brothers lived and testified.
Ballard hired the hit man for the job while detained in the Charleston County Detention Center. He instructed others to carry out the attempt.
Ballard was found guilty on nine counts after a two-week trial before the late Judge Sol Blatt, Jr. in 2015: Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Cocaine and Cocaine Base, more than five kilograms of cocaine, more than 280 grams of crack cocaine; Conspiracy to Use and Use of Interstate Commerce Facilities to Commit Murder for Hire; Solicitation of Murder for Hire; Tampering with a Witness; Retaliating Against a Witness or Informant; and Possession of a Quantity of Cocaine.
During the sentencing hearing, Assistant United States Attorney Sean Kittrell urged the court to impose the sentence of life in prison plus 10 years, saying the harsh sentence was appropriate because “Ballard tried to commit one the most serious crimes imaginable, attacking not only the witness, but directly targeting the judicial and law enforcement system itself.”
He said, “Without witnesses, there is no court and no justice. That’s why shooting a federal witness is such a big deal. It threatens the very heart of what we do — testimony is the key to determining truth and establishing guilt.”
Kittrell noted that because this was a case where Ballard tried to obstruct justice through a violent and vicious attempt to eliminate a federal witness by killing him, a tough sentence was essential in order to deter others who may seek to protect themselves from federal prosecution and sentencing.