A city couple recently was sentenced for their participation in a drug ring that distributed an estimated half-million dollars of crack cocaine throughout Williamsport. Naafi Maliq-Jabbar Lowe, 25, and girlfriend Danielle Cherie Cohick, 25, pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Lowe was sentenced to seven to 14 years state prison and Cohick was sentenced to four years intermediate punishment.
Lowe and Cohick were part of the large-scale drug enterprise led by kingpin Khalil Fulks, 27, that trafficked about 12 kilograms of cocaine in the Williamsport area over a year-and-a-half period. Cohick allowed Lowe to use her vehicle to complete drug transactions and her home to store drugs and cash, according to District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt.
State police and the district attorney's office began to dismantle the crack ring by introducing a confidential informant to Lowe in June of 2011. During the 14-month investigation, state police made 30 controlled purchases of a total of 784 grams of cocaine from Lowe and co-conspirators in the organization, according to Linhardt.
At sentencing, Judge Marc F. Lovecchio asked Lowe how he came to be "a statistic instead of an exception." Lowe asked the judge to clarify what he meant.
"The reality is this: our prisons are overflowing with young African American men like yourself," Lovecchio told Lowe.
"I don't know, it was easy money," Lowe replied. "It helped take care of my family. It's hard to find jobs."
More than a half-dozen of Lowe's family members, including his three children, sat in the courtroom to support him during sentencing. Lovecchio reminded Lowe that the choices he makes while serving his time in prison ultimately will determine the length of his sentence.
"Whether your children have a father in seven or 14 years is up to you," Lovecchio told Lowe.
Lowe's brother Tariq Ameen "Raw" Lowe, 29, also recently was sentenced to seven to 14 years state prison for his participation in the Fulks ring. Lovecchio reccommended that the Lowe brothers serve their time in different state facilities.
Lowe and Cohick are just two of 17 individuals arrested for their role in the Fulks operation. To date, seven individuals have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced, according to Linhardt.
While Naafi Lowe admitted to having a heroin addition, Cohick was found not to have chemical addictions, her attorney said.
"That means it's a choice for you," Lovecchio told Cohick. "You choose to use."
Cohick blamed her poor decisions on "people, places and things."
"Naafi is the father of my child so I did let him use my car," Cohick said.
Lovecchio asked Cohick whether that diminshed her responsibility, to which she hesitatingly answered, "No." Lovecchio asked how she would feel if someone turned a blind eye and sold heroin or cocaine to her child.
"I would lose it," Cohick said.
Lovecchio said that his acceptance of the plea agreement was not meant to "diminsh the significance of what this is."
"This is cocaine, a drug that kills people and destroys communities," Lovecchio said.
Cohick's family also was in the courtroom to support her.
"We're just glad it's over and done," said Cohick's aunt Judy Balzer. "I feel the charges were resolved fairly. I'm so impressed by Judge Lovecchio and what seems to be sincere concern."
Linhardt attributed the success in bringing down the drug organization to "the extraordinary investigative effort of the Pennsylvania State Police."
It "demonstrates the effort that law enforcement continues to make to win these battles where we can, and make our community safer for all of us," Linhardt said.