Reel gets 10 years in crack case

June 20, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Tammy Reel rocked with sobs as she apologized to her family Thursday in U.S. District Court, describing how crack cocaine changed her from a housewife to the operator of a crack house.

Her 8-year-old daughter sat in the front row directly behind her.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to my family and my children," Reel told U.S. District Judge W. Craig Broadwater.

"She'll become an adult before I'm released," Reel said, indicating her daughter.

Broadwater sentenced Reel to 10 years in prison Thursday for maintaining a residence for the distribution of drugs.

She could have faced more than 20 years in prison, but the prosecution gave her credit for assisting police in the conviction of Mark A. Johnson for kidnapping and attempted first-degree in Jefferson County earlier this month.


Reel of Hidden River, W.Va., was described as an important witness for the prosecution in that trial, in which Johnson was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.

Johnson was convicted in the Aug. 2, 1996, kidnapping of Donald Milligan, 50, of Gaithersburg, Md., after Reel lured Milligan into a Frederick, Md., motel room and Johnson attacked him. Milligan was stuffed into the trunk of his car while Johnson and Reel drove it around seeking cocaine, then he was thrown into the Potomac River, according to testimony.

Reel is still awaiting trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court for her role in the kidnapping.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Ginger Burcker, testifying at Thursday's hearing, said she believed Reel's testimony was an important factor in Johnson's sentence.

Burcker said she believed Reel was genuinely sorry for her involvement with crime.

Reel apologized to Milligan, who told the police sergeant he forgave Reel, Burcker testified.

A letter from Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson about Reel's cooperation also was introduced at Thursday's hearing.

But Broadwater said he did not want to give Reel too much credit for her cooperation, saying that she was involved with the crime while out on bond on the federal drug charges.

Broadwater said he could only go so far in rewarding defendants for cooperation in the prosecution of crimes in which they were involved.

Broadwater said he had to remember that Reel allowed her home to be used by a drug ring as a crack house.

Reel was indicted in November 1995 for maintaining a residence for the distribution of drugs. Reel pleaded guilty on Nov. 5, 1996, to that charge.

Reel testified she knew she would be going to prison and wanted to get away with Johnson for a while when they went to Frederick, Md., where the kidnapping began.

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