Greenfield man gets 3 to 5 years in cocaine trafficking case

  • Jason Byrd changes his plea in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Jason Byrd, right, with his lawyer Alfred Chamberland in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber states his case against Jason Byrd, far right, in Franklin County Superior Court on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 5/25/2023 5:00:51 PM

GREENFIELD — A mid-level operative in the cocaine trafficking syndicate that operated, in part, out of a Greenfield barbershop was granted a stay to his sentence so he can train the employees who will take over for him at his Turners Falls workplace.

Jason Byrd, 43, of Greenfield, has been ordered to report back to the Franklin County Justice Center at 9 a.m. on June 20 to begin his three to five years in prison after having pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to violate drug laws. He will be transported to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley to serve his time.

“I wish you good luck, sir,” Franklin County Superior Court Judge David Hodge told Byrd following the change-of-plea hearing.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber, who prosecuted the case, explained that Byrd was one of the defendants arrested in December 2021 following a seven-month investigation involving at least a dozen law enforcement agencies. Webber said if Byrd’s case were to go to trial the state could prove that Byrd had conspired with brothers Daniel G. Rice and Brandon M. Rice to distribute narcotics for profit. The brothers were leaders of a cocaine trafficking ring operating out of the barbershop that the former owned and operated. The barbershop business no longer exists.

Webber said his Northwestern District Attorney’s Office investigated the trafficking ring’s various tiers and determined Byrd “certainly fell below the hierarchy of the … two Rice brothers.” Defense attorney Alfred P. Chamberland agreed that his client fell “somewhere in the middle [of the hierarchy].” He also said Byrd’s employer was in the courtroom in a show of support.

Other defendants

The Rice brothers and their mother, Raeline Phelps, pleaded guilty last month to various charges for their involvement. The brothers were sentenced to five to eight years in prison, with 110 days of credit for time served. Those sentences will begin June 20. Phelps will be on administrative probation for two years. Nicole Perkins received a year of administrative probation pertaining to one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Earlier this month, Nathan M. Ortiz, and David B. Caplice changed their pleas pertaining to single counts of trafficking in cocaine, 18 to 36 grams, and conspiracy to violate drug laws. Following plea agreements, each charge carries identical penalties that will be served simultaneously. Ortiz also pleaded guilty to another charge of trafficking in cocaine, 18 to 36 grams, that was indicted in Hampshire County and transferred to Greenfield.

Damien Johnson has pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws but his case will be continued without a finding for one year, meaning he will remain a free man unless arrested on a separate charge.

Jason Nadeau has pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking in cocaine, 200 grams or more, and conspiracy to violate drug laws. His bail was set at $300,000 cash or $500,000 surety. Rebekah Thompson and Heather L. Symanski face the same two charges. Thompson was released on personal recognizance while Symanski was held on $3,000 bail.

Jaimilee Bontempi, David Gallegos, Damek Ryan, Robert Blake and Britney Porcino face charges of conspiracy to violate drug laws. Last month, the prosecutors dropped charges Cheri Gallegos and Nicole Barnes faced for their alleged involvement in the trafficking operation.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-930-4120.


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