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Monday, January 11, 2010

Trail Begins in Drug Agent Charged With Framing the Innocent

Ohio drug agent charged with framing people alternately called a liar, honest
The Associated Press - January 7, 2010

CLEVELAND, OH (AP) — While the prosecution describes a federal drug agent charged with framing 17 people in a cocaine sting as a liar trying to polish his conviction record, the defense says Lee Lucas is an honest and tough crime-fighting legend. A U.S. District Court jury in Cleveland heard both sides in opening statements Thursday in Lucas' trial. The 19-year veteran of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who fought drug traffickers in Miami and Bolivia, faces charges including obstruction of justice, making a false statement, perjury and violating civil rights. His co-defendant and former informant is expected to testify against him. Lucas is on administrative leave from the DEA. The trial could take weeks.


DEA Agent Lee Lucas indicted on perjury, civil rights charges; pleads not guilty
The Plain Dealer by John Caniglia - May 13, 2009

CLEVELAND, OH — Lee Lucas, the federal drug agent whose full-throttle approach led to major convictions and questions about his credibility, faced the toughest court appearance of his 19-year career Wednesday. His own. A federal grand jury in Cleveland charged Lucas, 41, of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in an 18-count indictment that accuses him of perjury, making false statements and violating three people's civil rights. The charges stem from a bungled drug sting in Mansfield that led to the arrests of 26 people in 2005. Lucas led a DEA task force that used informant Jerrell Bray to make undercover drug buys and help scoop up drug dealers. But Bray lied his way through the probe. Seventeen people were wrongly charged, according to the indictment, as Bray intentionally misidentified people he bought drugs from and purposely staged scripted phone calls with friends, making the conversations sound as if he was setting up drug deals. Of those 17 people, 12 were collectively sentenced to about 70 years in prison. Four were acquitted, and one spent nearly two years in jail awaiting trial. Thirteen of the 15 drug buys Bray made were bogus, prosecutors said. The indictment says Lucas failed to monitor Bray during the two-month investigation. He also concealed evidence from federal prosecutors who tried the cases and lied on the stand at two trials to convict people, according to the charges. He is also accused of making false and misleading statements in his internal DEA reports that summarized details of investigations. "Are you serious? Is this for real? I can't believe it," said Lowestco Ballard, one of the people Lucas arrested and who was later acquitted at trial. "It's wonderful how the inconsistencies finally came out." At a hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver asked Lucas for his plea. The agent said in a strong voice: "I am not guilty, sir, of every count." Former U.S. Attorney Greg White, whose office prosecuted the Mansfield case, said Wednesday marked a sad day for federal agents. "Any time you have those types of allegations against a law enforcement officer, it's a sad state of circumstances," said White, now a federal magistrate. "It's a breakdown of the way things are supposed to work." White has previously said he moved quickly to withdraw the charges and convictions once they learned about problems with Bray.

The prosecutor who handled the case, 22-year veteran Blas Serrano, is expected to be a key witness against Lucas and how the DEA agent investigated the case. Lucas' career was larger than life before the Mansfield case collapsed. He began with the DEA right out of Baldwin-Wallace College in 1990. He worked in Miami and Bolivia before returning to his hometown of Cleveland, where he continued to work around the clock and snag major drug dealers. But along the way, attorneys questioned his truthfulness. In lawsuits, they said he lied to strengthen weak cases. The indictment comes nearly two years to the day after Bray broke down and admitted to authorities that he set up people in Mansfield to go to prison, officials said. One of them was Geneva France, a mother of three small children who was convicted of dealing drugs and spent 16 months in prison based on lies by Lucas and Bray, according to the charges. When France was released from prison in 2007, her small daughters didn't recognize her. Other Mansfield defendants said they pleaded guilty under the threat of major prison time after seeing France go to trial and lose. The case against Lucas crawled through the grand jury because it had to be built on evidence independent of Bray, a convicted killer who pleaded guilty to perjury for his role in the Mansfield case and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, according to interviews and court records. Since Bray could not be completely trusted, federal investigators had to corroborate his statements, interview scores of residents from Mansfield, question Lucas' fellow task force members and review thousands of pages of testimony to link Lucas' to the allegations.

Specifically, the indictment says:

Lucas lied during testimony in a February 2007 trial, telling jurors he verified a phone number Bray called to a suspected drug dealer named Ronald Davis to set up a cocaine buy. The indictment said Lucas never checked the records. Lucas lied at the July 2006 trial of Dwayne Nabors, who ran a successful car detail shop in Mansfield. Lucas testified that he identified Nabors as the driver of a Cadillac agents followed. He also said that he and another officer, Richland County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Metcalf, pulled their undercover car alongside the Cadillac before a purported sale Sept. 20, 2005. The indictment says the officers' car never pulled up next to Nabors, that Lucas and Metcalf were not in the same car and that Lucas, in fact, did not identify Nabors. Lucas lied about seeing Ballard make a drug deal Sept. 9, 2005. He testified that he looked directly at Ballard, telling a jury: "I was closer to him than myself to the judge, and I looked him right in the face." The indictment said Lucas was never that close to Ballard and never saw him. In court Wednesday, Lucas appeared relaxed. The courtroom was packed with friends from Cleveland police and the DEA. Minutes before the hearing, he thanked his friends for their support. "That's what real policemen do; they stand up for each other," said a uniformed Cleveland officer. Lucas was given a personal bond, and the judge set a trial date of January. Lucas is expected to be placed on leave until his case is finished. An hour after the hearing, Lucas slowly walked out of the courthouse, shaking hands with the security guards he joked with for years when he was bringing major cases to prosecutors and sending people to prison. Now, prosecutors are trying to send him to prison.

1 comment:

g said...

The apathy of the American public to judicial, police, and prosecutorial corruption is incredible. It's one of those things you don't know about until you find out and then you are faced with a public that has no idea what a sham the american legal system is.