Prosecutor Says Plea Bargain Set In Drug Kingpin Case

September 11, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Two Taneytown residents and a Miami man accused of conspiring to bring cocaine into Carroll have worked out plea agreements with the State's Attorney's Office, officials said yesterday.

The three faced charges under the state's drug kingpin statute, which went into effectJuly 1990. Conviction under the statute carries a mandatory penalty of 20 years in jail without chance of parole.

All the details of the plea agreements were not available, but Carroll State's Attorney Thomas Hickman said the drug kingpin charges officially will be dropped when the three go before Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck tomorrow. The three are expected to plead guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy, Hickman said.

Fernando A. and Bonnie Hernandez of the unit block of Windy Hills Drive and Henry Hernandez of Miami were indicted by a county grand jury in January on charges thatthey ran a Florida-to-Carroll County cocaine ring.

Marilene Santos, a woman police say is the live-in girlfriend of Henry Hernandez, also was charged in the case and pleaded guilty to a charge of felony drug distribution Monday in Carroll Circuit Court. Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III said Santos likely will receive a suspended 10-year sentence, with credit for the time she already has spentin jail. Her sentencing is set for Dec. 2.

Hickman and the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force touted the group's arrest under the kingpin statute because it was the first in the county. Hickman said yesterday the decision to drop the kingpin charges does not signal a defeat for his office.

"I think we definitely disrupted this group asany sort of drug importation group," Hickman said.

Hickman and the defense lawyers agreed to begin negotiations for the plea agreements after Beck last week rejected defense motions to keep evidence in the case from a Carroll jury. The arguments to suppress the evidence from a wiretap on the Hernandezes' Taneytown phone were tedious and lengthy, with prosecutors, defense attorneys and court personnel in court sometimes until 9 p.m. over a two-week period.

In addition to seeking the suppression of evidence in the case, Westminster attorneysStephen P. Bourexis, Judith Stainbrook and public defenders Martha Sitterding and Judson K. Larrimore challenged the legality of the wiretap and the task force's authority.

With the suppression issues settled, jury selection in the case was scheduled to begin Monday. Prosecutors had estimated the trial would last more than two weeks.

Task force officers first arrested the Hernandez brothers on Dec. 18, 1990, when police followed Fernando Hernandez's 1988 Chevrolet Astrovan to Washington National Airport in Virginia where he was to pick up his brother, according to court records.

Police said their wiretapsurveillance led them to believe Henry Hernandez was carrying drugs in a black satchel.

The task force set up a fake car accident in Keymar and arrested the brothers when they stopped at the scene, police said.

Police said they found 162.3 grams of cocaine inside a sealed carton of cigarettes in Henry Hernandez's bag.

Hickman said the cocaine had a street value of about $45,000.

The kingpin statuteonly can be used for people found with 448 grams of cocaine in a 90-day period.

At the time of the brothers' arrest, Hickman said he expected to account for the remaining 289.7 grams needed to meet the statute at trial. Court records show Fernando Hernandez sold cocaine to an undercover officer on several prior occasions.

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