Prosecutors Bring Alfalfa, Pot to Court 

Prosecutors Bring Alfalfa, Pot to Court 
Posted by FoM on February 16, 2000 at 09:08:28 PT
By Kevin Blanchard, Acadiana Bureau
Source: The Advocate Online
 Federal prosecutors lugged a 50-pound bag of alfalfa pellets into court Tuesday, questioning the claims of a former Duson police chief who said he didn’t realize he was hauling marijuana as part of a drug operation.Former Duson Police Chief Tom Deville told investigators last year that he thought the shipment he picked up in Houston for an acquaintance smelled like alfalfa.
Deville is accused of making the trip for Lanier "Pop" Cherry, who investigators say led a large-scale Acadiana area marijuana smuggling operation.Deville faces federal charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, interstate travel in aid of racketeering crime and carrying a gun during a drug crime. He is the only one of 14 co-defendants who has pleaded innocent in the case.Deville’s statement to investigators -- which they viewed as a confession -- does not specifically say he knew the shipment was marijuana.At one point during his return trip to Duson, Deville moved the duffel bag and box from the back of his truck into the cab because it had started to rain."I smelled something very strong," his statement reads. "It smelled like alfalfa hay."State Police Sgt. Dirk Bergeron opened a bag of evidence marijuana and a bag alfalfa pellets and testified they do not smell the same.Bergeron said the bag of pellets was purchased in Breaux Bridge for $8.33. In his statement to investigators Deville says Cherry paid him $1,000 for the Houston trip.There was discussion Tuesday between the attorneys and U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik whether the jury would be allowed to smell the marijuana. Haik said he would allow it.Deville's attorney Daniel Stanford questioned why Bergeron or FBI special agent Steve Richardson did not include in the statement that Deville denied knowing the true nature of his cargo.Richardson said he wrote the statement for Deville after the former chief told him he was a poor speller. Richardson said Deville signed off on the statement as it appeared.The pungent odor of marijuana came up again Tuesday in Deville’s statement. According to the statement, Deville said he once smelled marijuana from outside Lanier Cherry’s Duson home. Cherry had contributed to Deville’s re-election campaign. When Deville lost the election, Cherry offered him a job running drugs from Houston, but Deville refused, according to the statement.Deville’s live-in girlfriend for the last 12 years, Judy Rodgers, testified Tuesday that Deville was shocked Cherry would ask."He was upset about it -- that Lanier would have the nerve," she said."Tom was so anti-drug," she said, when Stanford asked how well she knew the man. "Tom, he don’t believe in that. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do anything. He believes in his job."Richardson testified he and Bergeron did not go to Deville’s home in May to trap him, but merely to see if he could shed light on Cherry’s activities"Honestly, I was hoping he wasn’t involved. I take my job very seriously," Richardson said. "Each and every time a law enforcement officer is involved in something like this, it’s a black eye for all of us."Richardson pointed to a section of the statement in which Deville talks about the second time Cherry offered him work."I asked Lanier what was going on. He said everything was dry," the statement reads. "I knew that by dry he meant that there was no marijuana."Richardson said "dry" meant Cherry had sold all his marijuana and needed more. Stanford has said Deville took "dry" to mean the run to Houston would be legal.Deville picked up the money from Cherry and -- after a brief stop at a Lake Charles casino where he won $200 on the dollar slot machine -- eventually met up with Cherry’s Houston connection.The connection -- Avel "Fat Boy" Garcia -- testified he and Deville never mentioned marijuana while the chief loaded the packages.Current Duson Police Chief Roland Lewis testified Tuesday that Duson police had no evidence Cherry was involved in illegal activities. The town’s police force in November 1998 -- the time when Deville made the Houston trip -- consisted of Deville, Lewis and Officer Randy Meaux, Lewis said.Lewis said a government informant was lying when he testified last week about seeing Lewis in front of Cherry’s home during a time of heavy drug traffic.He said he had worked before with Deville on drug busts in the city, with the cooperation of the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office.Lewis admitted to taking election contributions from Cherry when he successfully campaigned against Deville for the chief position, but said he did not know Cherry personally.Other testimony revolved around the gun charge against Deville. In a statement to investigators, Deville allegedly said he did not fear meeting a stranger in Houston because he kept his service revolver with him the whole time.Officer Meaux testified Deville rarely carried the gun. Rodgers testified she knew Deville did not bring the gun because she remembered putting it away in the closet after he left for Houston."We had already had a burglary at the home," she said. "I felt secure because I had a gun."Stanford said Tuesday night that he was debating whether to call Deville to testify today. Either way, he said he expected the jury to hear closing arguments.Lafayette: Published: February 15, 2000Copyright © 2000, The Advocate, Capital City PressRelated Articles:Witness in Deville Case Describes Drug Odor Witness: Chief Asked for Drug Run Ex-Chief Not Drug Runner 
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Comment #1 posted by greenfox on February 16, 2000 at 11:20:13 PT
Another case of one rule for the rulers, another for the masses..
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