Man acquitted of drug-running charges Prosecution suffers first loss in series of cases tied to alleged family drug ring

December 02, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County jury took less than 20 minutes yesterday to acquit an Annapolis man of charges that he was a courier for a huge, family-run drug ring operating out of a Cape St. Claire residence and Severna Park barbershop.

Prosecutors failed to prove to a Circuit Court jury that Robert Clinton Nokes Jr., 34, of the 1100 block of Summit Ave., brought cocaine from Florida to Annapolis for a business they claim was led by John Baumgarten Sr. and his sons John Jr. and Anthony Quinn Baumgarten.

The Baumgartens are being held without bail, awaiting trial in April in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Defense lawyer George Z. Petros described his client as happy and relieved. He said that the jury of seven men and five women heard conflicting evidence and that the prosecution's version of events "had way too many holes in it."

The case is the first prosecution loss among cases related to the alleged drug ring. Many cases against accused low-level workers have yet to come to trial, but there have been several convictions, among them people who admitted to being part of the alleged ring.

The prosecution claimed Nokes, lured by easy money, drove to Florida on Jan. 13, 1993, and returned the next day with drugs packed into the dashboard of his Chevrolet Blazer. Star witness John S. Luke, 31, of Cape St. Claire, who pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges but has not been sentenced, testified that he went to Florida as part of that transaction.

On the night of Jan. 14, 1993, federal drug agents and Anne Arundel County police watching Nokes' home saw Luke arrive and lie down in the Blazer, his legs dangling out the door, according to police testimony. "A drug dealer by profession, what in the world is he doing in R. C. Nokes' Blazer? He's getting his cocaine," Assistant State's Attorney M. Virginia Miles argued to the jury.

But Petros said the prosecution's version did not happen. For one thing, Annapolis city public works records show Nokes at work Jan. 13 and out sick Jan. 14. For another, Nokes' cellular phone records indicate a call placed locally about 11 a.m. Jan. 14, impossible if the car phone a friend had installed was used while he was making a 16-hour trip from Florida.

Miles argued that police surveillance showed that he was not home Jan. 13 and that the work records were not necessarily accurate. In addition, she argued that the cellular phone was not necessarily the car phone.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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