Owens sentenced to 20 years in federal prison
ROANOKE – Barry “B.J.” Owens Jr. lived in New Castle when he was arrested a year ago and charged with bringing in heroin from Pennsylvania. But after his sentencing in federal court Monday, his address for the next 20 years will be a federal prison.
The 30-year-old who himself estimated he had brought in 35,000 bags of heroin into Craig County and the Roanoke Valley was sentenced by Judge Samuel Wilson in U.S. Western District of Virginia Court in Roanoke.
That was the same court where he signed a plea agreement and pled guilty on Feb. 3 to four heroin charges and one of conspiracy to distribute heroin. He has been in jail awaiting trial since he was arrested in late September.
Before federal marshals led him back a holding cell and eventually prison on Monday, Owens was allowed to hug his mother and father, younger sister and a family friend.
Mother Carol Owens testified as a character witness for her son, whom she said “would take off and give the shirt on his back to someone who needed it.”
She agreed with the judge that drugs had ruined her son’s life, but said she didn’t know about many of the crimes he was convicted of since he turned 18 or the vast list of drugs he had taken over the years, which the judge read to her.
“I didn’t know it (his drug addiction) was as bad as it is until recently,” Carol Owens said. “He’s never let me know.”
B.J. Owens told the probation officer who prepared the pre-sentencing report – and which the judge read to Owens’ mother – over the years drugs he had used drugs ranging from alcohol and marijuana to cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin LSD, Ecstacy, morphine, methamphetamine, mushrooms and prescription drugs.
“I do realize he’s done wrong,” Carol Owens told the judge, “and he has to pay for that…I feel like he needs to have a rehabilitation program to get over this.”
Darlene Archull, who said she was Carol Owens’ best friend, testified she had known B.J. Owens since he was 2, “and he’s always been a good-hearted fellow.”
In answer to questions from defense attorney Terry Grimes as to how her friend’s son had changed, she said, “He wasn’t the sensitive, kind young man I knew him to be.”
Before Wilson sentenced Owens, Grimes pointed out that others involved with him in bringing in heroin had received lesser sentences than what federal sentencing guidelines called for.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Wolthuis urged the judge to follow sentencing guidelines because of Owens’ past criminal history as well as the public safety standpoint of Owens’ demonstrated drug trafficking activity.
“Mr. Owens estimated he brought in 35,000 bags of heroin to the streets of Roanoke and Craig County,” Wolthuis said.
“He’s going back and back and back into drug trafficking,” the prosecuting attorney pointed out.
When he sentenced Owens, the judge asked if he had choices of where he wanted to serve his time. Owens said Butner, N.C.
Owens’ arrest for the heroin charge in court this week came after he and Pennsylvania resident Edwin Cartegena were in a car stopped on a routine traffic stop in Shenandoah County. Police said there were hundreds of bags of heroin in the car.
On Sept. 16, a grand jury of the Western Judicial District of Virginia indicted Owens on four charges of distributing heroin on Feb. 24, 2010; March 2, March 5 and March 11; and one charge of conspiring to distribute heroin between spring 2008 and September 2010.
Craig County Sheriff Clifford Davidson said Owens’ arrest came from combined investigation efforts by his office, the New River Regional Drug Task Force and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
Owens was arrested six weeks before a massive drug bust in Craig County that rounded up 32 men and women on a total of 56 drug and related charges, including several heroin offenses and one fatality from a drug overdose.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article incorrectly identified Owens’ father.