Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of One Kilogram or More of Heroin and Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine: Mistrial by Hung Jury
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut prosecuted 18 co-defendants who were indicted on charges involving drug conspiracy, drug distribution and firearms. The conspiracy charge alleged heroin in the quantity of one kilogram or more and cocaine in the quantity of five kilograms or more, which under 21 U.S.C § 841 (b)(1)(A), calls for a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life, if convicted. The matter was prosecuted before the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. As the case progressed, 17 of the 18 indicted co-defendants pleaded guilty. The remaining defendant fired his first lawyer, to whom he paid close to $100,000 and who recommended he plead guilty, and instead, retained Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer, John L. Calcagni III. The man specifically hired Attorney Calcagni for trial representation. The case proceeded to trial before a jury. The government offered the testimony of 13 witnesses, which included 11 law enforcement officers and 2 cooperating witnesses, who were co-defendants that previously pled guilty and entered into cooperation agreements with prosecutors. The government also offered more than 100 exhibits consisting of seized quantities of drugs, wiretapped recorded phone calls, alleged drug trafficking paraphernalia such as kilo presses, vacuum sealing devices, digital scales, cutting agents, masks, gloves and more. It also offered evidence seized from the man’s home at the time of his arrest, to include a small quantity of heroin, cocaine taken from his bathroom toilet seat that spilled when he apparently tried to flush drugs upon arrival of police, and approximately $26,000 in cash. Attorney Calcagni cross-examined the government’s witnesses and adopted the government’s evidence as part of his defense strategy. He argued that the evidence presented by the government established the existence of a drug trafficking conspiracy involving not his client, but those who had pled guilty. He claimed that the evidence found in his client’s home was consistent with personal use of drugs, not distribution, and that the money consisted of legitimate proceeds from the man’s restaurant, which he owned and operated. In closing arguments, Attorney Calcagni told the jury the only evidence connecting his client to the conspiracy was his affiliation with one of its admitted members, which is insufficient to show a conspiracy. He also told them that the testimony of the cooperating witnesses consisted of unreliable statements by admitted criminals who fabricated their testimony in the hope of impressing the government and the court sufficiently enough to secure their own freedom. After two days of deliberations, the jury reported that its members were deadlocked and could not reach a unanimous decision. Accordingly, the Court discharged the jury and declared a mistrial.