Rutherford County

Teacher Among 6 Charged with Drug Conspiracy in Rutherford County

Rutherford CountyPeople often assume that once an individual is arrested and taken into custody, his or her access to illicit drugs is cut off. Although law enforcement officials would like that to be the case, the reality is that drugs do make their way into the nationals jails and prisons – and you might be extremely surprised to find out who the people are that risk serious criminal charges themselves smuggling those drugs into the institutions. Just recently, six co-conspirators were arrested on felony charges for attempting to smuggle drugs into the Rutherford County jail. Among the co-conspirators were a Kindergarten teacher and her son.

The Conspiracy

According to a recent news story in the Daily News Journal, six people, including a Rutherford County Schools teacher, were charged with felony conspiracy to introduce drugs into the Rutherford County jail.

Shelley Gurda, 50, a kindergarten teacher at Stewartsboro Elementary School in Smyrna, was charged with conspiracy to introduce Suboxone into the jail on September 12th.  The other five individuals charged include the teacher’s son, Thomas Gurda Jr., 23, an inmate at the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center; inmate Adam Carter, 22, and a friend of the Gurdas; inmate Jeffrey Phipps, 41; inmate Collin Russell, 26, and his brother Conner Russell, 22.  Shelley Gurda, Carter and Conner Russell were arrested on September 26th. Phipps, Collin Russell and Thomas Gurda Jr. were arrested the following day.  Conner Russell was also charged with introducing contraband to a penal facility, according to the release.

The school system suspended Shelley Gurda without pay, according to Rutherford County Schools spokesman James Evans. Gurda was hired Aug. 1, 2016 and had no record of other discipline issues, according to the release.

Detention Capt. Chris Fly said the detention staff intercepted telephone calls and received information from inmates about the possible conspiracy. Jail staff forwarded their information to the Criminal Investigations Division for further review.  Detective Curtis Beane said the investigation showed Gurda, Carter and Conner Russell conspired to attempt to deliver Suboxone to inmates Thomas Gurda Jr., Collin Russell and Phipps. The Suboxone was intercepted before the drug reached the inmates, Beane said.

Hearings on the charges are set for Oct. 17 in General Sessions Court.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is designed to treat adults who are addicted to or dependent on opioids.  Suboxone Film is a prescription medicine that contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used to treat adults who are dependent on (addicted to) opioids (either prescription or illegal). It is intended for administration under the tongue or inside the cheek and is available in four dosage strengths. When used as intended, it can cause a similar, though less intense, affect as opioids such as heroin.

What Are the Penalties for Smuggling Drugs into a Jail or Prison in Tennessee?

Tennessee Code § 39-16-201 governs the illegal introduction of contraband into a jail or prison in Tennessee, the pertinent part of which reads as follows:

(b) It is unlawful for any person to:

(1) Knowingly and with unlawful intent take, send or otherwise cause to be taken into any penal institution where prisoners are quartered or under custodial supervision any weapons, ammunition, explosives, intoxicants, legend drugs, or any controlled substances or controlled substance analogues found in chapter 17, part 4 of this title;

(2) Knowingly possess any of the materials prohibited in subdivision (b)(1) while present in any penal institution where prisoners are quartered or under custodial supervision without the express written consent of the chief administrator of the institution; or

(3) Knowingly and with unlawful intent take, send or otherwise cause to be taken into any penal institution where prisoners are quartered or under custodial supervision any telecommunication device.

(c) A violation of subdivision (b)(1) or (b)(2) is a Class C felony. A violation of subdivision (b)(3) is a Class E felony.

In this case, the co-conspirators are facing Class C felony charges which carry a sentence of three to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.

Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have additional questions or concerns about drug-related criminal offenses in Tennessee, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Stan Bennett
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