VOL. 127 | NO. 33 | Friday, February 17, 2012
Petties Trial Testimony Hits One Week Mark
By Bill Dries
Ten-year-old crack cocaine is brown and looks like meatballs.
Drug dealers never sell 100 percent pure cocaine to customers on the street but they do to each other.
They are keenly aware of dollar amounts and weights from past transactions. Some are very aware of sentencing guidelines and sentencing ranges used in state and federal courts. Others aren’t and rely on their attorneys to tell them whether they should sign plea deals or not.
When they meet to discuss proffers and plea deals, drug dealers don’t remember anyone’s name with the government. They are men in suits.
Police and federal agents always get consent to search a suspected drug dealers home, apartment, stash house or car. It’s apparently an unwritten rule to tell the cops it is okay to search and they won’t need a search warrant.
If you ask how to spell someone’s street nickname, you won’t get an answer. It’s not the kind of thing people write down. It’s just something people call you.
Those are some of the details the jury in the Petties drug trial is hearing after a full week of testimony. It has been a mix of family members of people killed by the violent drug organization, jailed drug dealers, reformed drug dealers and the law enforcement officers who built the case against the drug organization one bust at a time.
It has brought to light a culture that doesn’t obey too many laws but definitely has a code of its own.
Tobias Pride, possibly the most reluctant witness among a series of reluctant witnesses this week, was asked how to spell the street nickname of someone he had been testifying about. Instead, Pride simply said the name over and over again. There was no correct spelling.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly established over the testimony of several witnesses that those in the Petties organization didn’t have cars or homes in their own names most of the time to avoid questions about the use of drug money to buy both.
But when he asked Pride if the street names were an attempt to hide identities, Pride looked surprised and said no, they were just nicknames.
Brian Orr is now a truck driver after getting into drug dealing in his late 20s. Orr testified that at times he was selling 160 kilos of cocaine a month, bringing in about $300,000 a month. Orr referred to his customers as his clientele and seemed offended when defense attorney Marty McAfee assumed he had “rocked up” the cocaine – turned it into crack.
He described Kerry Shelton, one of his drug sources, as having “a problem with mathematics.”
“He couldn’t count real good,” Orr said.
Orr also yawned several times during his cross examination by defense attorney Anne Tipton.
“Am I boring you?” she asked. Orr said he had been working late the night before. Orr is an owner-operator.
When he told Tipton he worked for himself, Tipton asked “Didn’t you work for yourself in the 1990s?” referring to his time as a drug dealer in which he also owned a liquor store as a front for his drug dealing.
Orr said the liquor store never made money because employees stole the money and he didn’t really care because of the money he was making as a drug dealer.
But Orr also cautioned against taking his sometimes monthly income and assuming he made that much every month.
The interstate traffic stop for speeding in 2004 that ended Orr’s career in the drug trade demonstrated the perils. Police and federal investigators searched not only the car but Orr’s house and seized enough cocaine that as soon as he was out on bond, the supplier who fronted him the cocaine came to collect what was owed for the drugs now in federal hands.
Orr said he settled the debt with 10 kilos of cocaine he had in a storage unit and $40,000 in cash.
It involved another explanation about drug intermediaries showing up to represent someone else in the drug world who ultimately reported to someone else.
That caused Tipton to wonder, “How many people does it take to make a drug deal?”
Tipton and McAfee emphasized the plea deal Orr made three days after the traffic stop that was his downfall. Orr acknowledged he didn’t remember and probably hadn’t read the terms at the time, relying on his attorney to tell him what it meant.
By contrast Orlando Pride, the cousin of Tobias Pride, stayed right with Tipton and McAfee as they did the math on a plea deal after he was already sentenced to 21 plus years in prison on drug conspiracy.
The second day of testimony Thursday by Billy Ray Myles, allegedly shot in the leg by defendant Clinton Lewis, after he was run over by a car, was punctuated by sidebars among the attorneys and Judge Hardy Mays over how and when defense attorneys could ask Myles about his 10 pending aggravated theft cases in state court.
Mays ruled the defense couldn’t ask him specifically about the cases, but could ask Myles if he was a thief.
Tipton got into it by asking Myles about the red jail scrubs he was wearing and whether it was some kind of uniform.
“You steal things don’t you?” Tipton asked.
“I have,” Myles replied.
Myles admitted stealing and acknowledged he’s been in jail for six years awaiting the outcome of several theft charges. But the jury never heard that it was 10.
He was shot in the leg allegedly because he broke into a drug stash house owned by Clinton Lewis and stole a lot of marijuana and a gun.
The 2004 case against Lewis in state court was dropped when Myles testified that he didn’t know who had shot him and that it wasn’t Lewis.
Myles testified this week he feared for his life and that of his family. He also said someone close to Lewis paid his father $2,000 of a promised $10,000 if Myles would lie at the 2004 state court hearing.
Tipton countered, “But you weren’t so scared of Clinton Lewis that you wouldn’t steal dope from him.”
Until Thursday, Mays was unaware his already elaborate courtroom security measures would have to include the presence of approximately 40 kilos of cocaine that are evidence from past drug cases. The cocaine is in its original packaging in evidence bags plastered with evidence stickers establishing the critical chain of custody for the drugs.
The past drug busts are being used by the prosecution to establish for the jury how substantial the Petties drug organization was. And the cocaine was wheeled into court for the first time Thursday and taken out at the end of the day in court.
The attorneys on both sides briefly examined a brick of cocaine in a multi layered evidence bag during a recess in the trial.
When the trial resumed, defense attorneys began questioning police officers and federal agents about -- the chain of custody.
Prosecutors made a different point – the amount of drugs flowing through the city and the region via the Petties drug organization and the lengths that drug organization was willing to go to with that much money at stake.