WAYCROSS — A former prison guard in Coffee County pleaded guilty last month to taking part in a drug trafficking operation, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Jessica Azaelae Burnett, 41, of Douglas entered a guilty plea to federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana, a justice department statement said.
She has not yet been sentenced, and faces up to 20 years in prison and fines, the statement said. As part of her plea agreement, Burnett also agreed to the forfeiture of five firearms seized during the investigation.
Burnett, who was a sergeant and a senior guard with CoreCivic, the private prison company that operates Coffee County Correctional Facility, admitted working with other conspirators in distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana, the statement said. Her role in the conspiracy included smuggling cell phones, drugs and other contraband into the state prison, according to the justice department.
Burnett was one of 48 defendants indicted in Operation Sandy Bottom, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation centered in the Sand Ridge neighborhood on the east side of Douglas, in an area known as “the bottoms.” The indictment alleged that the conspiracy, controlled by a subset of the violent Gangster Disciples street gang, used guns, violence and fear to control methamphetamine trafficking operations throughout the community and to enable contraband distribution inside Georgia prisons.
The indictment charged the 48 defendants with a total of 129 felonies. With Burnett, 20 of the defendants are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty, including another former Coffee County prison guard, Idalis Qua Dazia Harrell, 24, of Douglas, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana, the statement said.