Nick Jackson of Norcross, center, pleaded guilty to a drug charge Friday in front of federal court Judge Charles Pannell Jr. Through the plea bargain, Jackson avoided further prosecution in connection to buying and selling cocaine in large quantities, even after his teenage son was murdered last February.
ATLANTA -- Nick Jackson pleaded guilty Friday to single count of distributing cocaine, avoiding further prosecution for his role in a drug ring that officials said had direct ties to Mexico and continued well after his innocent teenage son was murdered.
Donning a pinstripe navy suit, yellow shirt and matching burgundy tie and pocket square, a bearded Jackson sat beside high-powered attorney Jerry Froelich in federal court Friday. With a string of yes-your-honors and no-your-honors directed at Judge Charles Pannell Jr., the Norcross man pleaded guilty to a charge that typically carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Before everything was official, Assistant United State Attorney Skye Davis painted a better picture of the case against him.
The feds investigated the actions of Jackson and other tied to the case for about 18 months, starting in Jan. 2011. The probe came to an end last July when authorities intercepted calls from a "Mexican broker" to a more local dealer, who reportedly set aside a few of the 25 kilograms of cocaine for Jackson, his "best customer."
Jackson's so-called right-hand man, Darren Dunlap, picked up five kilos of cocaine -- under the surveillance of federal agents -- and was later arrested following a traffic stop, Davis said. Authorities had wiretaps on the subsequent phone calls between Jackson and the other dealer, she said.
All that happened months after Jackson's 15-year-old son, Nicholas Jackson II, was fatally shot during a Feb. 2, 2012, robbery at his family's home just outside downtown Norcross. The younger Jackson -- a skilled athlete and honor student -- was reportedly shot through a basement door while trying to prevent a robbing crew from entering the home.
The crew of at least seven men from across metro Atlanta was believed drawn to the Jackson abode by a rumored $1 million and 50 kilograms of cocaine tucked away inside.
Sentencing on Friday's plea was set for April 12. The single count of cocaine trafficking carries a possible sentence between 10 years and life in prison, as well as the possibility of five years to life on probation after being released.
Fines up to $10 million can also be levied.
Jackson was originally indicted on several other counts of trafficking in cocaine and money laundering.
Davis told the court she had no objection to Jackson remaining free on bond until his sentencing. Jackson has been out of jail since October, and was recently given clearance to leave his home for certain tasks like attending church and searching for jobs.
During Friday's proceedings, Pannell asked Jackson a simple question: "Why did you do this?"
After several seconds of silence, the judge offered up an answer himself.
"For the money, or...?"
Jackson took the suggestion.
"Yes, your honor," he said.