Two could face life in prison after prison drone drop

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Ionia — Three Detroit residents were arraigned Friday in Ionia District Court and face felony charges with penalties ranging from 71/2 years to life in prison after they allegedly used a drone to smuggle contraband into a state prison.

Patrick Corey Seaton Jr., 22, Daryl Steven Marshall, 34, and Jonathan Larawn Roundtree, 33, all face felony smuggling charges after the Ionia County prosecutor alleged they plotted to drop three cellphones, razor blades and marijuana into a nearby Ionia state prison on Thursday.

They are the first three people in Michigan to be arrested for using a drone to sneak contraband into a state prison, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

All three face the same felony charges related to using a drone to drop off weapons, felony cellphone violations and a felony charge for furnishing marijuana to a prisoner in the prison.

Each faces five counts that all carry a maximum penalty of five years and or a $1,000 fine.

But because all three had prior offenses, the penalties could be more severe.

Ionia County Magistrate David Wirth called the charges “serious” and set a bond of $100,000 for all three men.

“These are serious, serious alleged actions,” Wirth told Seaton during his arraignment.

He and the others were arraigned via video conference and were not physically present in the courtroom or accompanied by legal representation.

All three pleaded not guilty and face preliminary exams in September.

Roundtree could face up to life in prison because of past convictions. He was released from prison on parole less than five months ago, according to Wirth.

Roundtree pleaded guilty to carjacking in 2005, pleaded guilty to receiving or concealing stolen property in 2003 and altering a pistol that same year.

Roundtree said there is no one to care for his 13-year-old son after he was taken into custody.

Marshall could also face life in prison because of his prior convictions for unlawful driving away, resisting arrest and breaking and entering.

Seaton will face five counts of the same charges that would each carry a maximum sentence of 71/2 years and possibly more after Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler alleged that the three may be connected to a nearly identical previous drone drop attempt in a state prison in Carson City.

Butler said they found the same vehicle at the scene of the crime there via video surveillance.

Prior to being taken into custody, Seaton said he worked at a meat factory for $11 an hour and had been living with his parents.

All three men were granted court-appointed lawyers.

Butler said drones are a new threat to security for the state prisons and are difficult for authorities to control because of their speed, small size and ability to easily carry contraband.

It’s more covert than simply throwing a package over a prison fence, he said.

“And the ultimate concern is them dropping in a weapon of some sort such as a firearm or pistol for prisoners to then access and use to help escape and harm other people,” he said. “It’s difficult to prevent these types of situations because of their size and their speed and just the size of these prison yards.”