Drew Thornton's Last Adventure, by Sally Ann Denton

There are a million excuses for police corruption -- that they're underpaid, that they suffer stress, that their wives hate them, that they eat too many donuts, that their kids hate them, and that liberals use them as whipping boys. Read the official reports to hear the dreary recitation of why those who administer the laws never seem to obey them.

Re: Drew Thornton's Last Adventure, by Sally Ann Denton

Postby admin » Mon May 16, 2016 8:05 am

Cocaine-Carrying Chutist Was Ex-Policeman, Lawyer
by Associated Press
September 12, 1985

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Andrew Carter Thornton II, a former narcotics officer and suspended lawyer who plunged to his death from a plane holding cocaine with a street value of $14 million, had a history of drug and arms involvement across the nation.

"I'm glad his parachute didn't open. I hope he got a hell of a high out of that (cocaine)," said Brian Leighton, an assistant U.S. attorney in Fresno, Calif. He once prosecuted Thornton on a marijuana trafficking charge.

The body of Thornton, 40, a native of Paris, Ky., was found Wednesday on a driveway in Knoxville, Tenn. He was heavily armed, carried 77 pounds of cocaine in an Army duffel bag, and was attached to a parachute that had failed to open.

A key that investigators found on his body bore an identification number matching that of a plane that crashed while on autopilot earlier that morning, 60 miles away, Knoxville Detective Allen Hale said today.

Tennessee police believe he was supposed to meet someone on the ground to deliver the cocaine.

Knoxville Police Lt. Jerry Day described Thornton as "a kind of survivalist, an individual who was expecting trouble and ready for it."

Thornton, known to his friends as "Drew," served in the 101st Airborne Division in the mid-1960s, and was among soldiers sent to the Dominican Republic after a revolution. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart.

"He was an expert sky diver and the type of guy who wouldn't even let anyone touch his pack. He was a fanatic" about his equipment, said a friend in Lexington.

He joined the Lexington police in 1968 and stayed for nine years. In 1981, the Lexington Herald quoted sources as saying Thornton had set up the department's intelligence squad.

Police Chief John McFadden verified that Thornton served on the department's narcotics squad from 1970 to 1973. He described him as an average officer and said he had worked his way through law school at the University of Kentucky while on the force.

After resigning in 1977, Thornton practiced law in Lexington.

Four years later he was among 25 men accused in Fresno, Calif., in a theft of weapons from the China Lake Naval Weapons Center and of conspiring to smuggle 1,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States.

Numerous news reports in 1981 and 1982 linked the ring, which included several former Lexington policemen and other Kentuckians, to a larger group known as "The Company."

The larger group was described by a 1980 federal indictment in East St. Louis, Ill., as a dope- and gun-running syndicate with more than 300 members and $26 million in boats and planes.


Thornton wasn't charged in the China Lake weapons case, but was indicted at Fresno on one count of conspiracy to import a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The indictment said the charges involved the flight of a plane on a drug run from South America to Kentucky in 1979. He was named as the pilot.

Thornton left California after pleading innocent and was arrested as a fugitive in North Carolina, wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a pistol.

He pleaded no contest at Fresno to a misdemeanor drug charge and the felony charges were dropped.

He was sentenced to six months in prison, fined $500 and placed on probation for five years, and his law license was suspended.

Thornton "was one of the smartest fellows I ever met," said a friend. "In school he did very well. He came from a very good family and had everything in the world going for him."
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Re: Drew Thornton's Last Adventure, by Sally Ann Denton

Postby admin » Mon May 16, 2016 8:51 am

Woman to Go on Trial As Smuggler's Helper
by AP
February 8, 1988

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 7— Nearly two and a half years after a daredevil cocaine smuggler fell to his death on a driveway here when his parachute failed, a woman accused of being his accomplice is going on trial on drug charges.

Agents linked the parachutist, Andrew Carter Thornton 2d, to nearly 300 pounds of Colombian cocaine strewn from a plane across eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia. Bags of the drug were tied to his waist.

''It was an unusual case,'' said Tony Acri, assistant special agent in the Atlanta office of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

''The fact that Thornton parachuted in carrying the dope -- we haven't seen that before,'' he said.

Two people were indicted on charges of conspiring with Mr. Thornton, once a narcotics officer in Lexington, Ky., to import about 880 pounds of cocaine.

One of the two is Rebecca Sharp, a 32-year-old paralegal from Lexington, Ky, who is free on a $50,000 bond. She faces up to 70 years in prison and a $780,000 fine if convicted. The second person accused of being an accomplice, Ruben Soto, is a fugitive.

Ms. Sharp's trial is scheduled to begin March 1.
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Re: Drew Thornton's Last Adventure, by Sally Ann Denton

Postby admin » Mon May 16, 2016 8:59 am

'Bluegrass Conspiracy' tale never gets old: Twenty-five years ago this day, an old man who lived in a tree-filled neighborhood in Knoxville woke up to find a dead man in his driveway. It was the body of Andrew Carter Thornton II, a former Lexington narcotics officer who turned to dealing drugs.
by Jack Brammer
September 11, 2010

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

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Image
Police recovered the body of Kentucky native Drew Thornton from a Knoxville yard on Sept. 11, 1985, after Thornton parachuted out of a plane to his death with 77 pounds of cocaine strapped to his back. The Knoxville News-Sentinel

Image
Drew Thornton, shown in an undated photo. In 1985, Thornton parachuted out of a plane to his death with 77 pounds of cocaine strapped to his back. Lexington Herald-Leader

Twenty-five years ago this day, an old man who lived in a tree-filled neighborhood in Knoxville woke up to find a dead man in his driveway.

It was the body of Andrew Carter Thornton II, a former Lexington narcotics officer who turned to dealing drugs.

On Thornton were about 75 pounds of cocaine, $4,800 in cash, two automatic weapons, several knives, rope, night-vision goggles, six Krugerrands and keys to a plane.

He wore combat-style fatigues, a bulletproof vest and expensive Italian shoes.

Thornton, 40, died when his parachute failed. His neck broke but cause of death was listed as a ruptured aorta.

The plane in which Thornton was flying was discovered a few hours later crashed in a rugged mountainous area of North Carolina. It was unoccupied. No flight plan had been filed for it.

The shocking death and plane crash brought to light revelations — and allegations — about a scandal involving cops, politicians and high society in Central Kentucky with drugs, weapons and murder.

The scandal produced a book in 1989, The Bluegrass Conspiracy, that drew raves and jeers with big sales.

It still sells well.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington reported this week that 385 copies of the book have sold this calendar year at the store — 15 so far this month.

Overall, it has sold about 30,000 in hardcover. About 196,000 copies have been sold in paperback.

Image
Sally Denton, author of The Bluegrass Conspiracy. Photo provided by Sally Denton

The author of the book, Sally Denton, said she is not surprised that the public is still buying the book.

"It's an amazing story, an amazing drama with really colorful characters," Denton, now an author in Washington, D.C., working on her seventh book, said in a telephone interview this week.

She said The Bluegrass Conspiracy will be launched as an e-book on Kindle and iBook in a couple of weeks and "some interested people" have renewed an option on the book to write a screenplay to make a movie.

Denton had met Thornton when she worked as an investigative reporter for Lexington's WKYT-TV from 1980 to 1983.

While at the station, she worked on several reports about corruption in the Lexington police force, particularly in the narcotics division.

On the day Thornton died on Sept. 11, 1985, Denton was at a bar in New Orleans. She learned of the unusual death from a TV news show.

At the time, Denton, who had interned for nationally known investigative journalist Jack Anderson, was working in a private investigations firm in Washington, D.C.

Shortly after Thornton's death, The Washington Post asked her to write an article about him. In 1987, several literary agents pursued her to write a book. She spent two years on it.

The book became extremely popular in Central Kentucky. "It also sold well in Las Vegas, for some strange reason," Denton said.

There was criticism of the book.

John S. Carroll, then editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, wrote that it "blends fact, rumor and fiction with a recklessness that is breathtaking."

In a review of the book, Carroll also noted Denton's writing style, offering a few samples without comment. They included:

"The nubile beauties lured the politicians to hotel rooms that had been wired for sound and equipped with hidden cameras."

"He was wearing combat-style fatigues and expensive Italian shoes — a seeming non sequitur to those getting their first glimpse into the bizarre world of the sexy, madcap Kentucky blueblood."

Carroll's criticism "stung at the time, made me angry," Denton said.

"But now I consider John a friend of mine. I tremendously admire all he has done for journalism.

"In retrospect, I think he was a bit embarrassed that the Lexington Herald-Leader had ignored the story, had not done enough on the Lexington police force.

"He also criticized my writing, my syntax. I regret that I was not eloquent in syntax, but I was young and that was my first book. I believe I have improved."

Carroll, who retired as editor of the Los Angeles Times and moved back to Lexington, said Friday that he was critical of Denton's book, "but I've got to admit that it dealt with an important story and did so in a way that's had an enduring impact.

"On balance, I think the book was a positive event for the community because it alerted people to a series of dangerous and corrupt events that hadn't been given their due in the media, including the Herald-Leader."


Carroll said Denton "did a good job of digging, but I also thought the package in which she wrapped her findings was a bit too simple and neat. The truth, I suspect, was more complicated."

Carroll added that he "probably ought to read the book again."

In 1989, Carroll oversaw a series in the Herald-Leader written by reporter Valarie Honeycutt Spears about the drug culture in Lexington since the 1960s. He called the events described in the "Birds of a Feather" series "a community tragedy."

Denton said she has no regrets about her book and noted that no one ever filed a lawsuit on any of its contents.

Ken Kurtz, who hired Denton at WKYT and was the TV station's news director, said this week that "the vast majority of Denton's book has been borne out.

"Maybe there were some things in the book that Sally went overboard on, but she updated and revised it in later editions," he said.

Kurtz added, "She captured the essence of a powerfully dramatic story."

It's a story that still reverberates in Central Kentucky, he said.
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