Thursday, July 27, 2006

This is a Happy Day!

Everyone knew what hung in the balance: the government’s unfettered and promiscuous use of inmate snitch testimony. DEA officials and high ranking officials with the U.S. Attorneys office were in the spectators’ gallery following the proceeding with a concern bordering on desperation.

The day-long hearing was tense and adversarial. No one knew what to expect. Judge Melancon could sentence the defendants to between ten and twenty years in prison and order that the family home be forfeited to the U.S. government. Or he could call for an evidentiary hearing. Or he could grant new trials and release three of the four defendants.

“If this conviction stands it will be a miscarriage of justice,” attorney Bill Goode charged.

“The court cannot re-weigh the evidence or substitute a judgment it feels is more reasonable,” U.S. Attorney Brett Grayson fired back.

“Motions for a new trial are not favored,” Judge Tucker Melancon agreed, “and are granted only with great caution.” New trials could only be granted, the judge told us, “in exceptional cases in which the evidence preponderates against the verdict.”

Finally, after a ten-minute break stretched to an agonizing half-hour, Melancon gazed at the ceiling and rendered his ruling. “I am convinced,” he said after ten minutes of preamble, “using the more onerous standard, that the defendants’ motions for a new trial, in the interest of justice, should be granted.”

Gasps of joyful disbelief echoed through the courtroom. “That will be enough of that!” a U.S. Marshall barked. The Judge told the Marshall to have Ann Colomb, Edward Colomb and Danny Davis back on the street within an hour.

As we waited outside the hulking structure they call the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, little children, light-headed from the heat and intense humidity, were rolling listlessly down a grassy embankment—working heroically to entertain themselves in an atmosphere of high tension, joy and horror they could scarcely understand.

The children of inmates are remarkably resilient. Survival depends on it. A few weeks before the July 14th sentencing hearing in the Colomb-Davis case little Mariah Price was sitting in my lap reading from a Bible-story picture book. I turned the page to a picture of Joseph in prison.

“Do you know who that is?” I asked.

“He’s Jesus,” Mariah informed me. “He's in jail with my granny and God’s gonna get them out.”

Weeks later, as July 14th dawned, young Mariah Price bounced out of bed and clapped her hands. “This is a happy day,” she told her mother, “’cause my granny is getting out of jail.” Jennifer Price hugged her little girl and prayed that she was right.

Twelve hours later little Mariah was skipping in circles in front of the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center waiting to hug her granny. After two hours in the sauna-like conditions, Nancy Bean scooped up four children and drove them to the nearest McDonalds for an ice cream cone. Meanwhile, some of the older family members took refuge in the air conditioned waiting room of a bails bondsman.

Three-and-a-half hours after Judge Melancon ordered the release of Ann Colomb, Edward Colomb and Danny Davis, the three defendants were released to their loved ones. Natacha Colomb embraced her Edward and Elizabeth Davis rushed to her Danny. Elizabeth hadn’t been able to stay in the house Danny had built for her while he was locked up. Now she took the ring she had been wearing close to her heart and placed it back on Danny’s finger where it belonged.

When everyone was free, Danny called out, “Hey ya’ll; we need to thank God for this miracle.” Thirty men, women, and children joined hands in a big circle and Danny led us in a short, workingman’s prayer followed by the familiar words, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name . . .”

When you open a 500-piece puzzle the complexity is overwhelming. Over the next several weeks I will be putting together the pieces of the Colomb-Davis narcotics conspiracy puzzle and when I am finished you will understand why this case has the feds shaking in their well-polished wingtips.


Anonymous said...

I am a retired DEA Agent and I would love to help you put those pieces of that complex conspiracy puzzle together. Henson knows how to get ahold of me and I will do it for free.

DEA needs a good enima and I would love to be the one who administers it.

AlanBean said...

Dear anonymous:
I need all the help I can get. Your input would be invaluable. As future posts will indicate, several DEA-6 interviews have been conducted on inmate snitches who have been accused by fellow inmates of running a scam on the government (sharing information; getting stories together). Thus far, the DEA agents assigned to this investigation have avoided asking the important questions because they don't want the answers memorialized for the record. Read ensuing posts and you'll get the gist. You know this game far better than I do.


Anonymous said...

Alan Bean;

I prefer not to do this on a blog so give me an email address or get mine from Henson.

If there's a problem in that case, it won't be in what you have. It'll be in what you don't have.

Was this solely a DEA case or was this a "cooperation" case with state and locals?

AlanBean said...

It started out as a series of uncorroborated small-town cop narcotics cases on various members of a single family over a period of six years. Most of these cases were so weak the Parish prosecutor wouldn't take them to court and the family refused plea bargains (the details will be in future posts). While all of this was going on the FBI, the DEA, and a intrajurisdictional task force comprising every police agency from Baton Rouge to Houston was ramping up a major operation called Operation Rap Crack (it didn't get much press but it resulted in dozens of convictions). The Colomb family home was raided by the local Sheriff's department (one of the cooperating agencies in the TF) on the basis of what I consider a bogus warrant and four crack cookies were found in the guest room dresser along with a gun and $160. The boyfriend of Ann Colomb's daughter went to the Sheriff's office and said the drugs, gun and money were his. He was sent home, even though he had clearly taken the gun from his police-officer-mother's home. Instead of prosecuting this one young wanna be gangsta, the sheriff's office decided to bring in the feds. This was partly because a man named Jerry Stutes was working for the sheriff's department, the DEA and the U.S. Attorneys office at the time. Because the ownership of the drugs seized in the raid was ambiguous, US Attorney Brett Grayson contacted several of his Rap Crack witnesses (starting with a guy who had once run a black-oriented club in the Colomb's home town of Church Point, La.) and asked them if they had ever sold drugs to the Colomb-Davis family. Naturally, they all had. Once the family name got into the federal prison pipeline every inmate from between Baton Rouge and Houston was saying they had sold vast amounts of drugs to the family. The more drugs they claimed to have sold the better the chance that the government would call them as witnesses. The family went to trial in march of 06, the snitches testified, and all were convicted on conspiracy charges involving over a ton of crack cocaine. During the trial the US Attorneys office received a letter from an inmate complaining that he had paid $2200 to a fellow inmate who said he had a girlfriend (sister?) in the DEA's office who could get him the name of a defendant and hook him up with some identifying information. He testified outside the presence of the jury but was assigned an attorney and naturally pled the fifth. Then, after trial, he started talking to the now-incarcerated Colombs about the details. Then a second inmate came forward with even more damning allegations. These guys have been interviewed by the DEA and their DEA-6's reflect the kind of snow job you would expect. For reasons that will become apparent as I continue to tell this complicated story in future posts, I am convinced the family is completely innocent and that a state-level possession with intent charge on one individual has been transferred to an entire family through the magic of incentivized informant testimony. I can be contacted at;; and 806-729-7889. I look forward to hearing from you.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, and thanks!

Anonymous said...

To Alan Bean;

I'll be in touch after the weekend using email. Then we can talk.