Monday, August 07, 2006

Shifting the Blame

This is the seventh in a series of posts inspired by a federal drug conspiracy case targeting a middle aged housewife and three of her children.

According to the warrant application Detective Dale Hundley gave a judge on October 22, 2001, a reliable confidential informant (C.I.) said that “Edward Colomb . . . was selling Crack Cocaine From His Mother Residence” (sic). According to the warrant application, Hundley handed the C.I. a transmitter concealed inside a pack of cigarettes and $50 in photocopied buy-money and sent him to the Colomb place.

Then things got complicated.

The raid turned up an embarrassment of riches—74 grams of crack cocaine, $160 in cash and a hand gun tucked inside a family room dresser. But the buy-money Edward took from Stevie and the bottle of crack cocaine Edward returned to his mother’s panty drawer had not been found.

Nagging questions were cropping up everywhere. If Ann Colomb had 74 grams of crack in her guest room dresser why did Edward have to be summoned in the first place? And if the gun found in the guest room dresser belonged to Tim Price’s mother; why wasn’t Tim being charged?

Tim was off the hook because his mother, Janet Kneeland, worked in the same office as Brian Hundley in Crowley. Besides, as the warrant application clearly reveals, the whole operation had been designed to nail Edward Colomb. The local police pulled over Edward’s car every time the young man got behind the wheel. They had booked him for every traffic violation on the book but his car always came up clean.

Brian Hundley wasn’t the only Crowley cop who worked should-to-shoulder with Tim Price’s mother. Jerry Stutes, an 18-year veteran of the Acadia Parish sheriff’s department, was also an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and an investigator for Assistant U.S. attorney Brett Grayson. When the October 22nd raid hit the jackpot the feds were immediately interested.

Brett Grayson liked prosecuting narcotics conspiracies and was always on the lookout for promising cases. Unfortunately, if the 74 grams of cracked was tied to Tim Price the case would be handled at the state level. But if you tied the illegal substances to Edward Colomb and his momma Mr. Grayson had the makings of a first-class federal conspiracy.

The pot was sweetened considerably by the fact that Sammy Davis had been taking a nap in the corner bedroom when the police officers knocked down the door. A shotgun had been discovered in Sammy’s room and an officer distinctly remembered Sammy taking personal ownership of the weapon. Eight years earlier Sammy had pled no contest to a drug possession charge even though no drugs were found on his person—that made him a felon in possession of a firearm, a federal offense that dovetailed nicely with a narcotics conspiracy.

The deal between Edward Colomb and Stevie Charlot suddenly became the only way to associate Edward and his kin with the fruits of the search.

Although he claimed to have monitored the transaction in Ann Colomb’s bedroom, Brian Hundley had no tape to corroborate his testimony. For the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Department this was standard operating procedure. A notorious liar like Stevie Charlot became instantly credible the moment a police officer testified that he was listening in. Recording the deal was unnecessary; in fact it created an independent witness to the alleged crime that could be exploited by creative defense attorneys.

Brian Hundley and Dale Thibodeaux needed a search warrant before they could search the car Sammy and Edward were riding in back in 1993. They told a judge that a CI had made a controlled buy at the Colomb residence. When the boys accepted a plea no one ever asked about the sketchy alleged buy that had started the wheels rolling.

This time it was different. First Stevie Charlot took his Grand Jury subpoena to Ann Colomb; then he called up Brett Grayson and said he wouldn’t testify against Ann and her boys. Finally, Charlot told a defense attorney that the alleged buy was pure fiction, and then amazed everyone by defying a federal Grand Jury summons. Without Charlot the federal case was in jeopardy.

But it went deeper than that. People had to wonder why a young man who would defy the government of the United States to protect Miss Ann Colomb could have casually betrayed her to the authorities a few weeks earlier for thirty pieces of silver.

Brett Grayson wasn’t going to let a two-bit street hustler rob him of a federal conspiracy case. While little Stevie eluded the police, the Assistant U.S. attorney and his investigator, Jerry Stutes, headed east on I-10 to the federal prison in Yazoo, Mississippi.


Anonymous said...

Stutes and Grayson went to the jail because a sntich called, an old police report, or something along those lines that triggered an historical connection to the 72 grams.
But even if the snitches in jail wanted to testify that they sold drugs to Edward or Ann, there are ways to corroborrate their testimony. Anytime you sell drugs, there are phone calls, car trips, hotel bills, witnesses, and other forms of evidence independent of what you say to prove what you say. Grayson knows that and if he didn't provide supporting information for those sntiches, he and Stutes should be investigated for subjornation of perjury.
You can't sell that much dope over a long period of time and not have a mountain of independent records that in effect reconstruct your day.
As for the buy, you serialize the money, you don't take a sntich statement, you don't keep the tape, and then you don't find the money you just serialized. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Anonymous said...

It appears that Edward was not in the house when it was raided. If he wasn't and he's the one who sold the dope, why didn't they secure the place while they were applying for the warrant and keep a tail on Edward so they could arrest him when he left the residence. Since Edward wasn't in the house when it was raided the money and the bottle may have been on him. Up to now this is just bad police work which is common and prosecutors creatively fix in the courtroom every day.

Anonymous said...

Somthing you might want to take a look at is no tape recording. In my experience, the cops tape but decide not to keep it only after they hear it and there's contradictory informaton on it. It's a common practice and they justify it by saying the quality of the conversation was bad, even if they were the only ones who got to listen to it. No sntich statement and changing reports are pretty good indicators of a buy they're trying to factually adjust.

What troubles me is that Grayson and the DEA supervisor who is suppose to supervise Stutes could have seen this creative writing assignement a mile away.

Grayson is working with a local investigator who is deputized by DEA, has DEA powers, DEA authority, and has unfettered access to DEA funds and resourcs, but DEA has absolutely no control over what he does. There are more differences than similarities between Stutes and a DEA Agents yet he shares the same authority.