March 11, 2010

Jury still out in Iron Horsemen drug trial

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Five hours of deliberations on Tuesday were not enough for jurors in a drug trafficking trial in U.S. District Court, and the group is expected to resume its talks this morning.

Richard Szpyt, the former president of the Maine chapter of the Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club, and two associates went on trial last week for allegedly running a major cocaine and marijuana distribution ring between Massachusetts and Maine.

Szpyt, Sherwood Jordan and Ramon Dellosantos each were charged with a count of conspiracy, which carries a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. Szpyt faces four additional counts, and Jordan five additional counts, for allegedly using the telephone to facilitate the sale and purchase of drugs.

During closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Perry said the government had met its burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

''We now have the mountain of evidence that I told you was going to come in,'' Perry said. ''There's no doubt, based on reason, that these individuals were involved in drug trafficking.''

Perry's evidence included hundreds of wiretapped telephone calls, drug ledgers, seized marijuana and cocaine, the details of surveillance operations by federal agents and testimony by cooperating witnesses.

The lawyers for the defendants, as they said during opening statements, conceded that their clients had been involved in the use or sale of drugs, but said they were not part of the massive conspiracy alleged by the government.

Szpyt, 49, of Haverhill, Mass., was president of the Iron Horsemen in Maine from 2005 until last spring, when he and several other club members, as well as other individuals not affiliated with the club, were indicted and arrested on drug charges.

''There is no evidence that he sold drugs for profit,'' Robert Levine, Szpyt's lawyer, said during closing arguments. He described Szpyt as a hardworking owner of a garage in Haverhill, who helped his friends and remained loyal to them.

Levine said Szpyt was set up to take the fall by eager prosecutors and by another Iron Horsemen member who made a deal with the government.

Robert Sanborn already pleaded guilty in this case, and he agreed to testify against the other defendants when prosecutors said they would recommend leniency at sentencing.

''Their case rests or falls on the testimony of the cooperating witnesses,'' Levine said. ''Now they are going to try to fly to freedom on Richard Szpyt's sails.''

Peter DeTroy, Jordan's lawyer said his client was not part of any conspiracy, and that Perry was trying to prove guilt by association.

''The government has cast too wide a net,'' DeTroy said. ''It's not OK for them to get it kind of right. They've got to prove with exactitude each and every element of the alleged offense.''

Dellosantos' lawyer, Elliot Weinstein of Boston, said the only evidence against his client came from the testimony of Plinio Vizcaino, who also is seeking leniency on a federal drug conviction in Massachusetts. Weinstein said Dellosantos knew Szpyt through the garage in Haverhill, but he was not supplying cocaine to Szpyt, Sanborn or any other Iron Horsemen members.

''Would Vizcaino make this up to gain his freedom? You know he would, and you know that he did,'' Weinstein said. ''He would lie, and he did lie here, to avoid years and years in federal prison.''

In rebuttal, Perry told the jury it they should scrutinize the motivation of the cooperating witnesses, but they did not even necessarily need that testimony to convict all three defendants.

The intercepted phone calls, ledgers, surveillance and other evidence was ''the meat'' of the case, Perry said, and the testimony of cooperating witnesses provided ''the spice.''

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

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