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Pair from Seaham and Sunderland jailed after being recruited to lie at Haswell drug dealer's trial
A DRUG dealer who recruited two friends to lie during his trial has had two years added to his sentence - while his pals have also been locked up.
Leslie Graham was facing a lengthy spell behind bars if he was convicted of being part of a Hartlepool-based gang caught with five kilos of cocaine.
A crucial part of the case against the 49-year-old was a mobile telephone number linked to the plot - which he claimed belonged to someone else.
Graham got greyhound track owner Joseph Atkinson, 53, and 37-year-old dog breeder Andrew Samme to say they knew the other man, who had since died.
The pair - both without previous convictions - said their mobile phones had the number recorded under the other person.
When the lie later emerged - after Graham was convicted of the drugs charge - all three were arrested for perjury and perverting public justice.
Atkinson said he had not been threatened by Graham - who has convictions for drug dealing and violence - but feared his dog track might be burned down.
AT COURT: Andrew Samme
Samme's barrister, Christopher Rose, said he had been "extraordinarily foolish" but said the "amateurish and unsophisticated" bid was unsuccessful.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, rejected defence barristers' claims that Samme, a joiner, and Atkinson had been "naive", saying they were both intelligent men.
However, he branded Graham "a professional drug dealer" and said it was a "determined" effort to avoid being implicated in what was known as Operation Mustard.
Graham claimed it was a solicitor's idea to find witnesses to say the phone did not belong to him, but the judge said he "ran with it with enthusiasm".
Samme, of Brockenhurst Drive, Sunderland; Atkinson, of Eastdene Road, Seaham, and Graham, of Greenacres Farm, in nearby Haswell, admitted both charges.
Graham had two years added to his seven-and-a-half-year drugs sentence, while the other two were jailed for ten months.
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