DEA cases in question after informant said he lied
Informant who admits he lied jeopardizes convictions, lawyers say
Tuesday, July 24, 2007Mike Tobin
Plain Dealer Reporter
The decision by U.S. Attorney Greg White to release a woman from prison and drop charges against two men could be the tip of the iceberg in a federal perjury investigation.
Dozens of convictions and pending cases in which DEA agent Lee Lucas investigated and Jerrell Bray was paid for information will come under scrutiny, several lawyers said Monday.
Bray told police in May that he made up testimony and lied on the witness stand in several drug cases.
"This is much more than a story about an informant who recants his testimony or prior statements," said John McCaffrey, who represents Bray. "My conclusion is that the conduct of Lucas in these two cases needs to be critically examined."
Bray's statements led White to drop charges this month against Joshawa Webb and Curtis Anderson, who were both in jail awaiting trial.
White also took the unusual step of asking a judge to release Geneva France from prison, where she was serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted on drug charges. Lucas and Bray testified in France's trial that they bought cocaine from her.
Carlos Warner, who represents Webb, believes Lucas made sworn statements that he knew were untrue.
"Our investigation raises serious questions as to whether or not Agent Lucas has either obstructed justice or committed perjury," Warner said.
Lucas could not be reached for comment. He returned to his hometown Cleveland in 2000 after stints working for the DEA in Miami and Bolivia.
He is known in law enforcement circles as someone who makes a lot of drug cases and isn't afraid to work undercover. He often works in cooperation with Cleveland police, most recently spearheading the case against the Hough Heights gang for selling gallons of PCP near East 93rd Street.
Defense attorney Jim Jenkins, who represents one of the accused in the Hough Heights case, said Lucas will become an issue in that case.
"Any time a government witness has their credibility called into question, it taints the entire investigation," Jenkins said.
Attorney Greg Robey said he is preparing a lawsuit against Bray, Lucas and the DEA after his client, Lowestco Ballard, spent nearly eight months in jail before being acquitted in a drug trial.
In that case, Lucas and Bray testified that Bray bought drugs from Ballard in 2005. But surveillance video shows the drug dealer was about 5-foot-9. Ballard is 6-foot-5, Robey said.
"It's a scary, scary thing," Robey said, whose client would have been sentenced to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The cases against Webb and France date to 2005. Bray, a longtime drug dealer whose record includes a conviction for manslaughter, was paid to introduce Lucas, working undercover, to Mansfield crack dealers.
In both the France and Webb cases, Lucas testified that Bray introduced him to drug dealers in October 2005. Lucas described both deals nearly the same: The dealer gave Lucas the drugs while Lucas handed them the cash.
But in both cases, investigators have located people who said they - and not France or Webb - were in the car with Lucas and Bray when the drug deals were made.
Also, both people corroborated Bray's new statement - that the deal did not go down the way Lucas testified it did. They described deals in which Lucas and Bray were the main participants and they only witnessed the transaction.
One woman told investigators three weeks ago that Bray picked her up and then they met Lucas, who was working undercover. Bray gave the drugs to Lucas while Lucas gave Bray the cash.
The woman in the car said she did not handle the drugs, as Lucas testified. Her only involvement was counting the money after Bray handed it to her, McCaffrey said.
The woman also looks nothing like France, McCaffrey said.
During France's trial in Cleveland last year, Lucas testified he was certain France sold him drugs.
"When I gave her the money, when we talked the whole time, I turned around and we had a face-to-face conversation," Lucas testified. "I was probably maybe a foot and a half from her."
France had no criminal record. She testified that she was home with her three young daughters at the time of the alleged drug sale, but a jury didn't believe her.
France, 24, was convicted in February 2006 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She spent 16 months in prison until last month, when White asked for her release pending the investigation into Lucas and Bray.
In Webb's case, another man who looks similar to him has come forward and met with investigators. Jeremiah Conrad told investigators that he was in a car with Bray and "an older white man" believed to be Lucas.
Lucas said Webb was in a car with him and Bray in October 2005. Lucas said he gave Webb $2,600 and then Webb gave him the crack cocaine.
Conrad gave a different version of events when interviewed at a drug rehabilitation center. Bray asked Conrad to ride with him on a drug deal. Conrad agreed and they went to a gas station, where they met Lucas. Conrad said he sat silently while Lucas bought drugs from Bray.
"I never touched the drugs or money," Conrad told investigators. "Jerrell gave the drugs to the white guy and the white guy gave him the money."
Two weeks ago, Webb passed a polygraph test in which he denied selling drugs to Lucas or even meeting him.
One week later, charges against Webb were dismissed. He spent 20 months in jail waiting for his case to go to trial.
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