A Mississippi woman has received the statutory maximum sentence in a murder-for-hire plot she sought to fund in Bitcoin.
Fderal authorities said Mississippi woman Jessica Leeann Sledge, 40, reached out to a “hitman” to kill someone, as Law&Crime previously reported. What Sledge apparently didn’t know, however, was that the so-called assassin she plied with Bitcoin and intel was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Sledge, of the town of Pelahatchie, pleaded guilty on Feb. 7 to use of interstate commerce facilities in murder for hire, records show. In the hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves noted that the maximum prison sentence was 10 years behind bars, and 3 years of supervised released. That’s what he handed down, with a $1,000 fine and $100 special assessment fee. He highlighted that Sledge offered something of pecuniary value for the killing to take place.
Pelahatchie Woman Pleads Guilty in Murder-for-Hire Plot: Jessica Leeann Sledge of Pelahatchie pleaded guilty to using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire. https://t.co/yBTShaqlhv
— FBI Jackson (@FBIJackson) February 9, 2022
Defense lawyer John M. Colette said that his client was a first-time offender with “zero chance of recidivism.” With that in mind, he asked for a prison sentence of around five years behind bars.
Sledge used WhatsApp and paid the “hitman” in Bitcoin, authorities have said in court documents.
“SLEDGE made Bitcoin payments totaling approximately $10,000 for the murder of Victim 1 on October 4, October 9, October 10, 2021, via internet transactions,” authorities said. “Using information obtained from the internet contact, on October 22, 2021, an undercover law enforcement agent (‘UC’) contacted SLEDGE on her cellular telephone while impersonating a hitman SLEDGE thought she had contracted with via the internet.”
Between Oct. 22 and 26, Sledge gave specific information about the target to the undercover agent. This included multiple pictures of the person and pictures of several vehicles this person usually drove, including the license plate numbers, documents said. Sledge and the undercover agent communicated through cell phone and WhatsApp, authorities said.
“During a series of recorded conversations, SLEDGE confirmed that she was paying for the murder of Victim 1,” authorities said.
On morning of Oct. 26, Sledge reached out to the agent through WhatsApp, saying the target was driving to a Marathon gas station to get breakfast.
“Physical surveillance confirmed that Victim 1 arrived at the gas station in the vehicle described by SLEDGE,” authorities said. “A photograph was taken of Victim 1 at the gas station and forwarded to the UC. The UC sent the photograph to SLEDGE, who confirmed that the person in the photograph was the intended target.”
But the “hitman” Sledge hired was actually an FBI agent. She met on Nov. 1 in Brandon, Mississippi, with the person she believed carried out the killing.
“On November 1, 2021, SLEDGE agreed to meet with the UC, who SLEDGE thought was the assassin that she had hired to murder Victim 1. SLEDGE and the UC met at a location in Rankin County, Mississippi,” documents said. “SLEDGE provided the UC with additional payment in cash and discussed the murder of Victim 1.”
According to the DOJ, the “intended victim was ultimately unharmed” and Sledge “admitted to her role in the murder-for-hire plot”:
Sledge admitted that, between September 2021 and November 1, 2021, in the Southern District of Mississippi, she used facilities of interstate commerce with the intent to hire an assassin to murder an individual in Mississippi. Sledge used the internet, her cell phone and the “Whatsapp” application to arrange a murder-for-hire.
[Booking photo via Madison County Detention Center]
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