Businessman's Fate Is Now In The Jury's Hands

Businessman's Fate Is Now In The Jury's Hands
Posted by FoM on October 28, 1999 at 22:46:14 PT
Oakland County news briefs 
Source: Detroit Free Press
Jurors today will begin deliberating the fate of Clarkston businessman Joseph Puertas, 72, accused of dealing drugs from his family's Orion Township bowling alley in late 1997.
The case has raised questions about Michigan's controversial forfeiture laws, which could allow authorities to keep $5 million in cash and assets seized in raids on Puertas' family businesses and homes, even if he is found not guilty.The raids turned up no drugs, drug paraphernalia or drug records. Still, prosecutors charged Puertas and bowling alley employee James Michael Talley with drug dealing, based on the accounts of Joseph Sweeney, a crack addict working for police as a paid informant.During closing arguments Thursday, Prosecutor Paul Stablein accused defense attorneys of trying to blur the truth by attacking Sweeney. Sweeney, he said, was a "tattletale" who should be believed. "The insinuation and innuendo amount to nothing," he said.But defense attorneys, noting that Sweeney repeatedly told conflicting stories on the stand and admitted to duping police by continuing to use cocaine while working for them, said he was not to be believed."To call Sweeney a tattletale is like calling Charles Manson a man with a bad temper," attorney William Mitchell said.Defense attorney Richard Lustig told jurors to keep in mind the forfeiture money prosecutors and police want to keep, which he called a motive to make a bad case look good. If Puertas were found not guilty in the criminal trial, but guilty in a civil trial scheduled for February, the money would not have to be returned. The civil trial is on the forfeiture."This isn't about drugs, this is about money," Lustig said.By L.L. BrasierPONTIACOctober 29, 1999 copyright 1999 Detroit Free Press 
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