BY LEANN DILBECK –
James “Tinker” Combs was sentenced to 15 years, 10 years of which are suspended leaving Combs to serve the first 5 on felony charges of Trafficking in Illegal Drugs and one count of Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony. The verdict was handed down by Judge Gary Brock in McCurtain County District Court Thursday, January 2. The sentence included the condition that Combs not be permitted to operate a beer-establishment while on parole.
His 2011 drug trafficking bust ended a “hub” drug operation affecting two states and multiple counties. Combs served as the ringleader of the operation and waived his right to a jury trial in September 2013. He was represented by both an Oklahoma attorney, Allen R. Malone, and an Arkansas attorney, Danny Thrailkill.
In an interview with The Pulse, McCurtain County District Attorney Mark Matloff said Combs waiving a jury trial in favor to be tried before a judge was no doubt strategic on his part, saying that traditionally judges are not as harsh in the sentencing phase. Matloff said that while he respected the decision of Judge Brock, “I believe the evidence in the case dictated a harsher sentence but I’m sure he took into consideration the defendant’s age and the fact that he took responsibility for the crime and didn’t waste the court’s time trying to defend it.” Matloff went on to say, “If Combs had been 19 and found with all of that dope, we’d be discussing his life sentence. The sentence should fit the crime.” Matloff did say that in Oklahoma, Trafficking sentences are typically served day for day and not just 40% of the sentence like many other charges.
Matloff commended the work of law enforcement in this bust and spoke highly of their collaboration to bring down the “hub of a major drug trafficking operation…this was no small time operation.” Matloff said the elimination of his operation has “made a significant impact on the decrease of drugs in a multi-county area…no doubt about it.”
Following the bust, McCurtain County seized Combs’ bar, home with 49.5 acres, and vehicles, all allegedly used in his trafficking operation.
Local officers from the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and the 18th West Judicial District Drug Task Force collaborated with the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Department, Hugo Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service, and the District 17 Oklahoma Drug Task Force in the surprise raid at the Kandlelite Bar in Watson, Oklahoma that was being used as a front for the drug trafficking operation.
Combs, now age 74, who has been free on a $75,000 bond since shortly following his arrest was immediately remanded into custody to be processed for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
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