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Third generation heads to state prison


OKEECHOBEE — James Alton Padgett III was sentenced to two years, 10 months and 15 days in state prison after pleading no contest to sexual battery. A charge of false imprisonment was dropped.

Padgett was arrested in August 2020. His victim has been diagnosed with autism and reportedly functions on a 5th to 6th grade level. She told Detective Javier Gonzalez that Padgett offered her money in exchange for performing sexual acts, but when she refused, he told her she was going to do it whether she liked it or not.

Padgett’s father, James Alton Padgett II, who was the former pastor of the 7th Day Christian Church on S.R. 70 West, was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in state prison after pleading guilty to lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under the age of 12, lewd and lascivious battery and lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim over the age of 12.

Padgett’s grandfather, James Alton Padgett I was  arrested in 1986 as part of a drug smuggling ring known as the Okeechobee Eight. According to court documents, Padgett’s land was used facilitate the drug transactions with meetings taking place in his home and a landing strip used for the importation of cocaine from Columbia on his land.

According to court records, in September 1985, a small airplane containing approximately 300 kilograms of cocaine landed on that landing strip. The cocaine was removed from the airplane for distribution, and the airplane which had been damaged during the landing was buried The Okeechobee Eight were credited with bringing 7,700 pounds of cocaine into the county. Padgett was convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, importation of cocaine, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

According to court records, the United States sued Padgett in 1991 in an effort to seize the one-acre parcel of land on which his family home stood. A district court had earlier ruled the government did not demonstrate probable cause to believe that a substantial connection existed between that property and an illegal drug transaction, although they did agree the remaining 40+ acres had a substantial connection.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision and entered an order forfeiting the home and remaining property to the government.

Padgett was sentenced to five years in prison followed by three years probation on the drug trafficking charge and for five years in prison on a weapons charge. In 1997, Padgett appealed the weapons conviction on the grounds the government did not show he actively used the firearm in a drug offense. The district court resentenced him to five years and five months in prison followed by three years probation, but Padgett appealed this decision as well. However, the appeals court upheld the decision.

Padgett I  died in 1998 at the age of 56.
Padgett II is serving his sentence in Avon Park and is set to be released in 2030.
Padgett III began his sentence on Jan. 4, 2022.

Padgett, Okeechobee Eight, drug smuggling, OCSO,