Chief Defendant Says He Was Working With The DEA!

Chief Defendant Says He Was Working With The DEA!
Posted by FoM on August 17, 1999 at 09:22:27 PT
By Michael Hemphill, The Roanoke Times
Source: Roanoke Times
Corruption at a state prison went on trial Monday in Roanoke federal court, where prosecutors said inmate and former Drug Enforcement Administration informant Michael Fulcher masterminded a marijuana ring, one which Fulcher insisted he set up to bust dirty guards. 
The 40-year-old Fulcher, his mother, Ethel Fulcher, his wife, Rosanna Sue Nichols Fulcher, a former guard and a fellow inmate stand accused of running a drug and money-laundering ring inside Bland Correctional Center from 1995 to 1997. The Fulchers claim they were working undercover and planned to turn over their evidence to authorities to get Fulcher a reduced prison term. He is serving 48 years in prison for a number of thefts in Bedford County.   Despite evidence that a DEA agent knew of the scheme, U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser ruled before the trial began that Fulcher can't introduce evidence to support his claim.   But leaving a back door open, Kiser will allow the other four defendants to put on evidence that they believed their work would ultimately be turned over to the DEA.   Twenty-two people -- four guards, 10 inmates and eight relatives of inmates -- were indicted in January in connection with the drug ring at Bland Correctional Center, which involved about $49,000 in marijuana. All but the five now on trial -- the Fulchers, former correctional officer William C. King, 30, and inmate Alvin G. Garcia, 34 -- have pleaded guilty and are expected to be called to testify during the next two weeks.   As was made clear time and again in Monday's opening arguments, motive is at the heart of each defendant's case.   Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Mott argued that money drove the drug ring and that the Fulchers, Garcia and King profited handsomely from their work.   Using a red Igloo cooler or a boom box, former correctional officer King smuggled the dope into the prison, which Fulcher and Garcia would distribute to a host of inmates, Mott said. The inmates mailed money orders to two post office boxes belonging to Ethel Fulcher, who had them listed under fake names. She and Rosanna Nichols used the money to buy more marijuana , Mott said.   In January 1997, the state Department of Corrections began an investigation at the prison. Agents copied Fulcher's mail and taped his phone calls. In May 1997, they obtained letters that Fulcher sent via King to an acquaintance, Teresa Paynotta, asking that she help him get some pot, Mott said.   Before those letters were discovered, Fulcher touted himself in letters to his mother as "big daddy wolf running the pack," Mott said. Afterward, the prosecutor claimed, Fulcher went into cover-up mode.   In July 1997, authorities seized thousands of documents from Ethel Fulcher's home that now form the bulk of the government's case. The government also will rely on the testimony of a number of inmates, among them a convicted rapist and a murderer.   In their opening arguments, defense attorneys encouraged jurors to view the felons' claims with great suspicion.   Beyond the inmates' testimony, defense attorneys argued that the government's case fails on its merits.   When Fulcher arrived at the Bland prison, he discovered corruption "that would gag a maggot," said David Baugh, Ethel Fulcher's lawyer. Seeking to free her son, the 65-year-old mother set up several three-way phone calls with Fulcher and DEA Agent Don Lincoln, Fulcher's "handler" in the 1980s, to discuss the undercover operation, Baugh said.   She also made copies of every money order mailed to her, all letters and other papers related to Fulcher's work -- documents she would have eventually turned over had they not been seized, Baugh said. More evidence would have been preserved had not DOC Special Agent Del Crowell botched the case, Baugh said.   As far as the charges she lied to obtain mail boxes, Baugh said the recipients' names were false, but she put her real name on the application card.   "She wasn't concealing it from the police," Baugh said. "She was concealing it from the people Mike Fulcher was setting up."   Attorney Gerry Zerkin, representing Fulcher's wife, said that in the hundreds of letters seized and hundreds of phone calls recorded, no evidence shows Rosanna Fulcher knew of the scheme. Her only connection, Zerkin argued, was that some money orders were mailed to her, but she did not know they were from illegal activity.   Attorney John Dalton told jurors that inmate Garcia did admit using marijuana to alleviate back pain, but never sold the drug and certainly never laundered money.   And as for King, attorney John Lichtenstein said the ex-guard helped Fulcher in order to bust bad officers. For proof, the lawyer read aloud a letter Fulcher wrote to Lincoln:   "Billy is an honest, innocent sucker ... The chances of Billy King doing dope are as good as your doing brain surgery." Pubdate: August 17, 1999
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