Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday in the federal trial of former narcotics agent Chad Scott, capping a day of testimony that careened from violent tales of the Houston drug trade to decade-old government memos criticizing the way Scott handled confidential informants.
After the prosecution rested, defense attorneys moved to have the charges dismissed. U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo rejected that motion, meaning that when court reconvenes on Wednesday, Scott's team will begin to put on their case.
Scott faces seven counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and falsification of government records. The three obstruction counts carry 10-year maximum sentences, though under federal sentencing guidelines it is unlikely that Scott would get anything near that.
Through the first six days of the trial, prosecutors Timothy Duree and Charles Miracle sought to weave together technical testimony including cell phone data and Drug Enforcement Administration policy provisions with insider perspectives on how kilos of cocaine and heroin are smuggled out of Houston into Louisiana and farther east.
They also brought in two members of the DEA task force that Scott led. Both men, former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office deputies, have pleaded guilty to federal charges and agreed to testify against their former colleague.
The overall picture they have tried to present is of an agent who cared nothing for the rules and would do anything he could to get what he wanted, whether that was a nice truck for himself or the conviction of a drug dealer.
On Tuesday, Edwin Martinez, a convicted drug trafficker from Houston, detailed for the jury how, as a middleman, he moved cocaine and heroin through his north Houston auto repair shop. Martinez's testimony, continued from Monday, included no reference to a plea agreement he had with prosecutors that offered him a six-year sentence instead of the life term he previously faced.
That deal, prosecutors said Tuesday before the jury was brought in, was offered to Martinez before he was expected to testify against Scott, and included references to the wide-ranging investigation into Scott's task force. Milazzo suggested to the attorneys that the information contained within it could be prejudicial to both sides, and warned them away from using it. She also instructed Martinez not to bring it up.
During his testimony, Martinez detailed how he pistol-whipped a former associate who lost three kilos of heroin, and how he put a gun in the face of another who lost some drugs. An associate asked Martinez if he wanted the first man killed, but Martinez said he decided against it.
"You carried the power of life and death in your drug dealing days, did you not?" asked Stephen Garcia, one of Scott's attorneys.
"Yes, I did," Martinez said.
Martinez also explained how his supplier would bring drugs in through the garage door and wait with his car while Martinez took the drugs up to an office, where he would meet with the buyer and count the money. Once the buyer left, the supplier would get his money. It was crucial, Martinez stressed, to keep the two separate so that they didn't decide to cut him out of the transactions altogether.
That last part is critical to the government's case because the perjury and obstruction counts against Scott hinge on the government's claim that Martinez's supplier, Jorge Perralta, and his customer, Frederick Brown, never met. Prosecutors contend that Scott persuaded Brown to lie at Perralta's trial and say he had seen him at drug transactions. Scott is also accused of perjuring himself by saying under oath that Brown volunteered that he knew Perralta.
Earlier in Scott's trial, Brown admitted that he lied at Scott's behest in hopes that Scott would help him get a shorter sentence. Perralta, who was convicted but went free when the government began to investigate Scott's task force, testified that he never saw Brown. Martinez backed that up, saying repeatedly that he would never let the two get together.
After Martinez finished on the stand, the government turned to Martinez's lawyer, Christopher Edwards, who said that Martinez told him Scott also persuaded him to lie. Martinez, Edwards testified, looked up to Scott as a protector, "a big brother" who could get his probable life sentence reduced to a much shorter term.
The government also called Robert Baggs, a former DEA supervisor who in 2004 wrote memos in which he admonished Scott for improper handling of potential confidential informants.
Under cross-examination, however, Baggs also said that Scott was "perhaps the most prolific agent" the New Orleans Field Division of the DEA had.
"He had a lot of informants; his informants would have informants," Baggs said. Scott consistently made more cases than all but a few other agents, Baggs said.
The government's final witness was Richard "Chip" Hardgrave, an FBI agent who served as the lead investigator in the case. Hardgrave testified that he had examined the forms that Scott is alleged to have falsified. Those forms refer to a truck Scott was given by Brown in Houston, but on the forms, Scott said he got it from Brown in Metairie.
Hardgrave testified that the investigation of the task force began with Louisiana State Police, who eventually asked the FBI to take it over. It involved several agencies, including prosecutors from Washington, D.C.; DEA Office of Professional Responsibility investigators from Florida; and Department of Justice Office of Inspector General investigators from Houston.
"There were a lot of moving parts, logistics and paperwork," he said.
Karl Newman was an admitted philanderer, drug user and thief. He was also a longtime agent assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration task …
The defense's case will likely try to build on the points they have attempted to make during cross-examinations. In those, they have questioned the credibility of key witnesses, repeatedly noting their inconsistent statements, criminal histories or drug abuse. They will likely try to portray Scott as an agent who may have cut corners but who also did more than most to put drug traffickers in jail.
Two admitted drug traffickers took the stand Monday on day five of the trial of former federal agent Chad Scott, with testimony veering back i…
Chad Scott was either a dirty cop who used his badge to get what he wanted or an aggressive narcotics agent who put major drug traffickers in …