Carroll again files drug kingpin case

November 17, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

The arrest this week of three people on "drug kingpin" charges marks only the second time Carroll County prosecutors have used one of the most powerful weapons in Maryland's drug war arsenal.

But, unlike the first time prosecutors lodged such charges -- against a Miami man, his Taneytown brother and the brother's wife four years ago -- Carroll drug officers this time have apparently seized enough drugs to meet the statute's definition of a kingpin.

In raids Monday and Tuesday that marked the culmination of an eight-week investigation dubbed "Operation Center Court," Carroll drug officers arrested nine people. They had warrants for 13 others, for whom they are searching.

According to investigators, three of the people targeted controlled heroin and cocaine rings in Westminster that generated more than $500,000 a year in profits. And because officers seized 169 grams of suspected crack cocaine and 33 grams of suspected heroin, prosecutors say they will be able to show a jury that the three are drug kingpins.

According to the kingpin statute, if a prosecutor can show that a person controlled, bought, sold or conspired to distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana, 448 grams of cocaine, 50 grams of crack or 28 grams of opiates such as heroin, a judge must impose a minimum mandatory 20-year sentence without the possibility of parole.

"We have built cases that will be rather difficult to wiggle out of," said Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III, the coordinator of the county's drug task force. "These are cases where we will be seeking maximum incarceration."

That's pretty much what prosecutors said in 1990, at the time of the arrests of Henry Hernandez of Miami, his brother Fernando Antonio Hernandez and the brother's wife, Bonnie.

Prosecutors contended that the three were major players in a Miami-to-Carroll cocaine ring. But none of the three was convicted as a kingpin, and only one was sentenced to prison.

Henry Hernandez entered a deal in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and was given a suspended 10-year sentence. He was to be placed on probation in South Florida, where he was supposed to give information to federal drug officials. He ultimately was deported to his native Colombia.

Bonnie Hernandez pleaded guilty to a similar charge and was placed on probation.

Fernando Hernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to 14 years in state prison. Tomorrow, he will ask Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. for a trial, claiming his lawyers -- Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S. Stainbrook of Westminster -- were incompetent and misrepresented the plea bargain into which he was entering.

Throughout their handling of the case, Mr. Bourexis and Ms. Stainbrook pressed Mr. Walker to show that prosecutors would be able to prove that the Hernandezes controlled 448 grams or more of cocaine.

Prosecutors never had that amount of cocaine in their possession, but, Mr. Walker insisted then and again in an interview yesterday, they would have been able to prove the actions of the three met the definition of the kingpin statute.

"We could have proved kingpin in those cases," Mr. Walker said.

But he never did. Asked if he thought prosecutors handled the Hernandez kingpin cases appropriately, Mr. Walker asked, "Are any of them out there dealing drugs now?"

Mr. Bourexis and Ms. Stainbrook declined to comment.

In announcing the Operation Center Court roundup, Mr. Walker told reporters he would not be inclined to offer plea bargains to the people he defined as major players. While not closing the door completely on plea offers, Mr. Walker said the cases against all 22 suspects were strong and provable.

Mr. Walker's position on the Operation Center Court cases could become moot. By the time the defendants come to trial next year, operations of the county drug task force are expected to be under the direct supervision of State's Attorney-elect Jerry F. Barnes.

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