Drug conspiracy trial to revisit crash that killed onetime NL star athlete
The tragic death of a popular local man is at the center of a drug distribution conspiracy trial under way in U.S. District Court in Hartford.
Renaldo Goosby, 25, a standout athlete from New London High School's class of 1999, died in a car crash on March 13, 2007, after fleeing from a Waterford police officer who was about to search his car with a drug-sniffing dog. Federal prosecutor Sarah P. Karwan said phone records show that Goosby called Lamont Muller during the traffic stop, though he told the officer he was calling his lawyer. Police said they found three kilograms of cocaine strapped to the drive shaft of Goosby's car.
The government alleges that Muller, 37, of Alger Place, New London, was a key player in an organization that distributed large amounts of powder and crack cocaine throughout New London County.
Using wiretaps, GPS tracking, hidden cameras, controlled purchases and other investigative techniques, federal, state and local police built a case against 15 people, many of them friends and relatives of each other.
Several of the co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and await sentencing, including Goosby's sister, Laticia Goosby.
Muller and five others - Marcus Colvin, Donald Gatlin, Wheeler Johnson III, Gerjuan Tyus and Joseph Ellis - have pleaded not guilty and opted for a trial. All of the men are being held at the Donald Wyatt detention facility in Central Falls, R.I.
Officers to testify
The Goosby incident will be the focus of testimony next week, when Waterford police Sgt. Stephen Bellos, who made the traffic stop, and state police Sgt. Wilfred Blanchette, who investigated the fatal crash, are expected to take the witness stand.
As the first day of the trial came to an end Thursday, jurors were listening to secretly recorded phone conversations of Muller in the fall of 1999. Muller appeared to be distraught that his business was slowing.
"A lot of my (expletive) dried up," Muller says in one conversation.
In another, he speaks of a co-defendant, Joseph Ellis, who was arrested during a traffic stop in Louisiana, allegedly with 700 grams of cocaine. The government alleges that Ellis and Colvin flew to Texas and that Ellis was pulled over as he returned with the drugs.
In pretrial arguments, defense attorneys had asked Judge Robert N. Chatigny to disallow testimony from the government about some of the men's membership in a motorcycle club called the "Twisted Assassins."
"There is the suggestion that because they traveled together, the may be part of an outlaw motorcycle gang," said attorney Francis L. O'Reilly, who represents Gatlin.
The judge told the U.S. attorneys that "unless there is a good reason to mention the Twisted Assassins, the Twisted Assassins shouldn't be mentioned."
On Thursday, the defense attorneys scrambled to ensure the club affiliation was not mentioned when a silver vest that was seized from a Williams Street apartment was entered into evidence. Special Agent Daniel Prather, the case supervisor, used the silver vest, which apparently bore the club's name, simply to demonstrate that Muller's street name was "Cuz." Police said they also seized from Muller two handguns and a quantity of marijuana.
During his opening statement, Muller's attorney, Michael S. Hillis, said the evidence would show that his client sold marijuana, not cocaine. He said Muller "liked to smoke pot and he liked to sell pot."
Wheeler's attorney, Conrad Seifert of Old Lyme, said he would be calling witnesses to testify that Wheeler is an expert blackjack player who has won "thousands and thousands of dollars" at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. Police seized $10,000 in cash and an expensive jewelry collection from Wheeler's safe deposit box.
Groton attorney Donald L. Williams said Tyus, his client, is "not an angel," but the evidence would not show that an agreement was made to distribute drugs.
"These guys know each other," Williams said. "They're relatives. They're friends. They live in the same community. I'm sure the judge will instruct you that it's not a crime to talk about crime."
The other attorneys urged the jury to listen to the evidence as it pertains to individual clients. All are charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, but only some are charged with possession and sales. The jury will be asked to render a separate verdict for each codefendant.
The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, will resume Monday.