Man sentenced to 35 years for plotting to kill Ga. deputy while incarcerated on drug charges

The man's plot was discovered when a cellmate and an undercover deputy got an audio recording of the scheme

By Rosana Hughes
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

TROUP COUNTY, Ga. — A Hogansville man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for conspiring to kill a Troup County deputy in 2020 while he was in jail on drug charges, officials announced Thursday.

A jury convicted 31-year-old Jonathan Taylor Lawrence of conspiracy to commit malice murder, threatening a witness in an official proceeding and trafficking methamphetamine.

In July 2020, Lawrence was back in jail on possession of meth charges after violating his bond conditions for an earlier arrest amid the coronavirus pandemic. About a month after his bond was revoked, a fellow inmate informed sheriff’s office investigators that Lawrence had a “hit” on a drug investigator who testified at his bond revocation hearing and had been involved in his earlier arrests, prosecutors said.

Before his reincarceration, officials said Lawrence had already been sending “menacing and threatening” messages to two people he believed were helping prosecutors prove he was violating his bond agreement. In the investigator’s case, “Lawrence took this investigator’s involvement particularly personally because they lived in the same neighborhood in Troup County,” District Attorney Herb Cranford said in a statement.

On Aug. 29, shortly after the inmate tipped off investigators, they equipped him with a recording device and sent him back into the jail dorm, where he and Lawrence were housed. That day, the recorder captured Lawrence discussing the plot, describing the layout of the investigator’s neighborhood and the logistics and tactics that could be used to carry out the hit. He even drew a map of the neighborhood.

Two days later, Lawrence and the inmate called an undercover deputy posing as a hitman. During the recorded phone call, Lawrence provided contact information for an associate of his who could facilitate a down payment for the hit.

Upon hearing and seeing the evidence, the jury found Lawrence guilty of the conspiracy but acquitted him of criminal attempt to commit malice murder and an additional count of threatening a witness. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger sentenced him Wednesday.

“I am thankful that this egregious, murderous plot was stopped in its infancy,” Cranford said. “This Troup County Sheriff’s Office investigator puts his life on the line every day he is on duty, just like every law enforcement officer in this state.”

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