A man convicted in the 1999 slaying of a beloved Sacramento minister — whose conviction was later overturned and led to him offering himself up as a mentor and “a force for change” — has been charged with selling fentanyl to an undercover agent and through the mail, court records say.
Tio Dinero Sessoms, who operates a consulting firm in the 900 block of H Street, has been charged in federal court with distribution of a controlled substance, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday morning in Sacramento.
“In July and August of this year, Sessoms mailed fentanyl and sold fentanyl to law enforcement in the Eastern District of California,” an affidavit from U.S. Postal Inspector Aaron Parker said. “During law enforcement’s investigation of Sessoms’ drug trafficking activities, it was discovered that Sessoms was using his workplaces as return addresses on packages he mailed to addresses in Pennsylvania containing drugs.”
Court records say investigators learned of Sessoms’ alleged activities through recorded phone calls he had with an inmate in custody in Pennsylvania on drug charges and that “after listening to the calls, law enforcement suspected the two were discussing drug trafficking.”
Sessoms allegedly used code words in text messages to a confidential informant working for law enforcement and asked to be referred to as “Jack,” court records say.
“In the messages, Sessoms indicated through coded language that there were certain drugs that he was unwilling to send through the mail, referring to one of these drugs as ‘dog food,’” court records say.
One drug purchase the undercover agent made was conducted on the third floor of the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in downtown Sacramento on Aug. 28, a place selected because Sessoms said that floor did not have security cameras, court records say.
“Agents then arrived at the Kimpton Sawyer hotel and found Sessoms waiting on the second-floor balcony, overlooking the entrance of the hotel,” court records say. “Law enforcement noticed another male loitering in the lobby who appeared to be a lookout for Sessoms, subsequently identified as Co-Conspirator 1.
“Around 1:22 p.m., the (undercover agent) entered the hotel lobby and made contact with Sessoms. After returning to the (agent’s) car to get the negotiated cash, the (agent) returned to the hotel and went to a third-floor bathroom with Sessoms.”
Inside the restroom was another man in khakis and a polo shirt with a radio in his pocket, a man court records say was another lookout for Sessoms.
Court records say Sessoms told the agent to leave the cash in a toilet stall and that he indicated fentanyl was in the adjacent stall.
“Around 2:40 p.m., I examined the suspected fentanyl the (agent) had purchased,” Parker’s affidavit says. “I observed two zip lock bags containing white chunky powder individually wrapped in clear baggies.
“The total weight of both Ziplock bags was 522 grams. The powder was field tested, and it tested positive for fentanyl.”
Conviction on a count of distributing fentanyl could result in a prison sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine, court records say.
Sessoms could not be reached for comment. A voicemail box at his business was full and not accepting messages, and court records indicated he was arrested Thursday in Pennsylvania and made an initial court appearance there on Friday.
Sessoms was one of three men convicted in the 1999 murder of Sacramento minister and gay rights activist Edward R. Sherriff, who was found dead in his mobile home on Elder Creek Road.
Sherriff had been bound with rope and telephone cord and stabbed 24 times, and his two small dogs were huddled next to his body.
Sessoms’ conviction ultimately was overturned on appeal because after Sessoms was arrested and asked for an attorney a Sacramento police detective “convinced Sessoms that a lawyer would simply get in the way,” an appellate opinion said.
Sessoms’ conviction was vacated and in 2017 he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and first-degree burglary, court records say. He later was arrested in 2020 for a parole violation, court records say.
“According to his publicly accessible LinkedIn page, Sessoms holds himself out in the Sacramento Community as a ‘mentor’ and ‘consultant,’” Parker’s affidavit says.
In the LinkedIn page’s “about” section, Sessoms writes that “after wrongful conviction I now have the opportunity as a free man to speak and be a force for change.”
“I want to be the resource that I wished I would of had, for those that need help understanding and making their way through this system,” he wrote. “Using my knowledge as a mentor, consultant through my company, T.Rind Consulting LLC, I have also had the opportunity to visit some of the same prisons that once held me.”
Sessoms maintained in a jailhouse interview that he was not in the room when Sherriff was killed. He said he rejected a plea deal because he wasn’t going “to take the fall for something I didn’t do,” he said then.
Prosecutors said another man, Frederick O’Neal Clark, who had been released from prison four months before the murder, was responsible for stabbing Sherriff, and Clark made it clear during his 2002 sentencing to life without parole that he was not remorseful.
“The only thing I regret is that I didn’t kill him in front of the UC Med Center where he could have been revived so that I could have killed him again,” Clark told Sherriff’s daughter at sentencing.