Drug defendants' lawyers say detectives were too quick to wiretap

August 09, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Detectives probing an alleged Joppa drug ring with ties to Florida and New York did not do enough investigating before seeking a telephone wiretap, defense attorneys argued.

Police should have exhausted other investigative techniques, such as surveillance and informants, before getting the wiretap, said attorneys representing the 16 defendants who were charged after an eight-month investigation.

On Tuesday the attorneys asked Harford Circuit Judge Albert Close to prevent evidence provided by the wiretap from being used.

"There was only a transparent appearance of an investigation," Public Defender Amanda Bull said during Tuesday's hearing.

Ms. Bull suggested that police could have set up video cameras to monitor a home believed to be the center of the alleged drug ring.

Investigators could have monitored the suspected ring from a wooded area near the house , she said. In addition, she said, informants could have been used .

Detectives also missed opportunities to enter the house when an assault and a shooting were reported to police as the drug investigation proceeded, Ms. Bull said.

But Assistant State's Attorney Scott Lewis rebuffed the defense attorney's assertions, saying investigators had no alternative but use a wiretap to get evidence.

"Techniques referred to by the defense counsel are not likely to work in this kind of case," Mr. Lewis said.

Police could not use surveillance because the Joppa house sits on a dead-end street, and police units -- even when undercover -- would have been noticed by the suspects and neighbors, Mr. Lewis said. Investigators could not use informants because they would not cooperate, , he said.

A telephone wiretap provided the best way to get information , Mr. Lewis said.

He added that police had cause to seek the wiretap, noting that the top suspect had no job, but leased a BMW and took regular trips to Florida.

The investigation started last summer with an anonymous tip that the Velez family was selling drugs at its Shirley Avenue home.

In November, Circuit Judge William O. Carr signed an order permitting investigators to wiretap two telephone lines at the house, the deputy said. The order was renewed the following month.

About 2,700 telephone calls to and from the Joppa home between November and January were recorded by investigators 167 cassette tapes, to be used as evidence, court records say.

Luis A. Velez, 22, and his 51-year-old mother, Isabel Velez, each face drug-kingpin charges, an offense that carries a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years.

They also have been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a school zone, conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy, common nuisance and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Rafael A. Velez, 19, has been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a school zone, conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy, common nuisance and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Rosemarie Velez Cooper, 24, has been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a school zone, conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy, using minors to distribute cocaine, common nuisance and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Ricardo Devalle Ortiz, 30, also of the 1800 block of Shirley Avenue, was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine, possession of cocaine and conspiracy.

Ms. Cooper and Mr. Ortiz were charged after they allegedly sold about 2 ounces of cocaine to an undercover state trooper for $2,500 on Jan. 10 .

In addition, 4 ounces of cocaine, worth about $4,000, were seized from the Velez home during a Jan. 10 raid, records say.

Other defendants are:

* Bobby Ray Cornett, 30, of the 4300 block of Norrisville Road, White Hall, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy and common nuisance.

* Mary Catherine Cornett, 28, of the 4300 block of Norrisville Road, White Hall, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy and common nuisance.

* Ramon Manuel Delgado, 30, of the 1600 block of Candlewood Court, Edgewood, charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

* William George Fender, 22, of the 600 block of Crossgate Avenue, Edgewood, charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

* Earl Edward Goodfellow, 26, of the 300 block of Bynum Road, Forest Hill, charged with conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and common nuisance.

* Sharon Lamoon, 33, of Baltimore, charged with conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and using minors to distribute cocaine.

* Richard Pena, 21, of the unit block of Krouse Court, Aberdeen, charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

* Ruben Pena, 24, of the unit block of Krouse Court, Aberdeen, charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

* Jimmy Roberts, 35, of the 400 block of Sedgemore Court, Edgewood, charged with conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

* Judy Rutherford, 33, of the 800 block of Windstream Way, Edgewood, charged with conspiracy, common nuisance, using minors to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

* Martin Luther Willis, 42, of the 1400 block of Perrywood Drive, Perryman, charged with conspiracy, common nuisance and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

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