900-lb. man pleads guilty in drug case, while in ambulance

RICHMOND, Va. – A Virginia man who weighs more than 900 pounds (410 kilograms) pleaded guilty in a federal cocaine conspiracy case Tuesday during a hearing that was held in a courthouse loading dock as the accused was lying on a stretcher in an ambulance.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak said that the court engaged in “a number of special procedures” Tuesday to go with Kenneth Hicks’ health and “protect his dignity.”

Hicks, 48, remained within the ambulance and was not seen for a number of his family members and reporters who was present at the hearing. He was visible to Novak and a prosecutor who was sitting at a table near the back of the ambulance.

The hearing was postponed last week, when Hicks was taken to a hospital for an unspecified health issue, after he was taken from his house.

Hicks, who lives in Emporia, was indicted, along with 17 other people in a conspiracy to sell cocaine between 2013 and 2017.

He had his first appearance in March via video teleconference and was allowed to stay in the league in his home pending his trial.

Because of various health problems, including morbid obesity, Hicks — by his lawyer asked for help in being brought to the courthouse for his plea hearing. Court documents in the case described Hicks as being limited in his bed and unable to dress himself or to be dressed by others.

Novak agreed to a plan submitted by Hicks’ lawyer and the officer of justice, the U. S. Marshals Service, the FBI and first responders to remove him from his home, either by placing him on a gurney and moved him through a door or cutting open with a large hole in a wall of his house in order to make use of a device that is capable of lifting his weight. The officials do not disclose how he was moved.

His plea hearing was originally scheduled for May 13. That hearing was postponed when he was taken to a Richmond hospital.

During the re-scheduled hearing on Tuesday, Hicks told Novak that he is transferred to another hospital, given insulin, and is treated for various health problems.

Hicks faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 40 years. Novak scheduled his sentencing hearing for Sept. 4.

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