Former Beaver Falls assistant coach sentenced in drug conspiracy

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A former Beaver Falls High School assistant football and basketball coach was sentenced today to nearly six years in prison for his involvement in a cocaine ring.

Carlos Cleckley, 37, of Beaver Falls, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to sell cocaine and possession with intent to sell crack. He was accused by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of selling crack to informants on six occasions, and on one occasion of selling 432 grams of powder cocaine.

"The defendant, while not the primary member of the conspiracy, was involved with very large amounts of cocaine," said U.S. District Judge Alan N. Bloch. His role in youth sports was admirable, the judge said, but he added that he "must also consider the risk he created for the same kids he tried to help."

Craig Cleckley, the defendant's uncle, said the former coach helped to mentor a young man with Down's Syndrome who got involved with the school sports teams.

"Special Olympics, he spent some time with that," the uncle added. "In such a dark world, it's nice to see such a bright light that shines upon the young ones."

Carlos Cleckley tearfully said he was embarrassed by the turn his life took.

"I just humbly hope that I can move forward and take this situation and try to better myself, and hopefully someone can learn from it," he said.

The sentence of 70 months was at the low end of federal guidelines that suggested 70 to 87 months in prison.

Cleckley's attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, wanted a lower sentence, based on the defendant's community work. After sentence was pronounced, Mr. Lewis said it reflected that "he took responsibility for doing wrong, but he did so much right" in life.

Asked why the coach got involved with cocaine, Mr. Lewis said he "he was influenced by his best friend, [Adrian M.] Taylor, and I think everyone makes mistakes in life."

Yesterday fellow Beaver Falls resident Taylor, 36, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in the ring. Texans Gathon Dudley Shannon, 46, and Vincent Middlebrooks, 41, were recently sentenced to 20 years for conspiring to supply the cocaine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine King called it "extremely regrettable that [Cleckley] betrayed his community and the youth of the community by poisoning it with drugs."

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord


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