A former Miami police officer has lost his bid for immunity from prosecution on major drug charges in Baltimore for his admitted smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the United States from Colombia in the mid-1980s.
John Gerald "Jerry" Gerant, the former officer, testified as a key government witness in a 1987 drug trial in the city and served as an informant and potential key witness in at least three other federal drug investigations.
Gerant sought dismissal of five drug charges filed against him in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last April. He claimed he "substantially complied" with two immunity agreements by working undercover for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, and by giving prosecutors information that helped convict eight drug defendants in Maryland and Florida tied to the Medellin cocaine cartel in Colombia.
Gerant said prosecutors here violated the immunity agreements, and his constitutional rights, by seeking his indictment on charges of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, cocaine distribution and three possession counts.
But the prosecutors said he violated the agreements by lying about his role in the smuggling, and damaged one trial and several related investigations.
Senior Judge Alexander Harvey 2nd ruled yesterday that Gerant breached the agreements despite his cooperation and set himself up for prosecution.
Harvey denied the dismissal motion after hearing testimony from convicted drug distributors, drug agents, prosecutors and Gerant's former defense lawyer in three weeks of evidentiary hearings that ended last week.
The judge said he was convinced that Gerant repeatedly lied to federal agents and prosecutors, a grand jury and a trial jury in Baltimore to hide nearly $2.4 million in fees he was paid for smuggling Colombian drugs into this country before his undercover work and cooperation began.
Harvey described Gerant as "an unprincipled, opportunistic individual who led a life of crime and deception" for profit, and said Gerant's motive "was pure greed."
Gerant's testimony at the hearings, Harvey said, "was unworthy of belief," and his breaches of the agreements "were substantial and material."
U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett said yesterday it is "rare" for prosecutors to try to throw out immunity agreements and prosecute witnesses. But he termed the Gerant case "significant" because "it confirms the integrity of this office.
"We won't let people enter immunity agreements and fudge on their testimony," Bennett said. "We don't make deals with people just to nail the defendant at the time. We want the truth from them."
Gerant testified as a key witness at the 1987 drug trial here of Steven A. Silvers; his brother, Gary Silvers; and an associate, George Chaconas. Gerant told the jury he flew cocaine into the United States for Steven Silvers' Colombian-fed cocaine network in Florida.
Prosecutors Andrew G.W. Norman and Gregory Welsh became suspicious of Gerant's truthfulness when he testified he had been an undercover FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration informant since 1982.
Gerant also testified that he earned about $550,000 smuggling cocaine into the United States for Steven Silvers, for fees of $6,000 per kilogram he delivered.
At the time, Gerant was living in a $350,000 home in Boca Raton, Fla., driving a new Rolls Royce and sharing two Mercedes-Benz sports cars with his wife.
The prosecutors' suspicions grew after the Silvers brothers and Chaconas were convicted and sentenced in 1988. The reason: They learned of debriefing sessions that federal agents had with Alan Raul Rudd, a Colombian who U.S. customs agents caught on a boat in the Caribbean with 800 kilograms of cocaine.
Rudd, who pleaded guilty to drug charges in Florida and has been cooperating with prosecutors both here and there, told authorities that Gerant was an organizer as well as a pilot in two major Colombian cocaine shipments in 1985.
Rudd said Gerant got at least $1.7 million in 1985 for smuggling cocaine into the United States, and got another $678,000 for rescuing 200 kilograms of the Medellin cartel's cocaine that allegedly had been seized by local authorities in the Bahamas.
Welsh testified at the evidentiary hearings that Gerant had been tapped as a key witness against several other major drug defendants in Baltimore.
But the prosecutor said Gerant's suspected perjury at the trial of the Silvers brothers and Chaconas "unnecessarily extended" investigations of the other defendants while the government tried to determine whether Gerant or Rudd was telling the truth.
"We were very concerned when we learned Rudd's version of events," Welsh said. "It was not a happy moment."
Eventually, Welsh said, DEA Agent Alexander F. "Sandy" Smith Jr. and other investigators obtained enough evidence to convince prosecutors that Gerant had lied about his profits and role in the smuggling.
In the fallout from Gerant's alleged perjury, prosecutors here say the Silvers brothers and Chaconas could seek new trials. None of them has to date.