By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A federal jury deliberated a little more than one hour on Thursday before returning five guilty verdicts against a Mercer County defendant in a two-day trial on drug and weapons this week at U.S. District Court in Bluefield.
Brady Woods, 37, of Bluefield had been under investigation by the Southern Regional Drug & Violent Crime Task Force for a period of some months before the West Virginia State Police arrested a subject who agreed to cooperate with authorities made two controlled drug purchases from the defendant on Jan. 31, 2011 and Feb. 3, 2011.
The task force didn’t arrest Woods immediately. Instead, the task force — an agency that includes officers from the West Virginia State Police, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bluefield and Princeton police departments and the Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming county sheriff’s departments — continued building the government’s case against Woods.
On Feb. 3, 2012, when Deputy J.D. Ellison responded to a 911 call at Woods’ residence, a year after the controlled buys in 2011, the task force executed a search warrant at the 701 Union St. Ext. residence that resulted in the largest illegal drug seizure that the task force had ever made, according to Sgt. Jose Centeno of the West Virginia State Police, head of the local task force. According to U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia, the seized drugs were valued at more than $250,000.
“This is a good day for justice,” Centeno said immediately after Senior Status U.S. District Judge David A. Faber of the Southern District of West Virginia accepted the five guilty verdicts and dismissed the jury. “With one kilo of crack cocaine and a half-kilo of powder cocaine, this is the largest drug seizure this task force has ever had. It will reduce the impact of the drugs on the street. We also recovered three guns during that search.”
Although there were no pills involved in the case involving Woods, Centeno said that a Bluefield Pill Initiative arrest led authorities to Woods. “We are in this to fight against illegal drugs,” Centeno said. “As policemen, we cannot always say we will pursue this illegal drug and not that one.
“I don’t think anyone realizes how long it takes and how much works goes into conducting a good investigation and bringing these drug dealers to justice,” Centeno said. “Our goal is to eliminate illegal drugs from our community. Today was a good day in that effort.”
Wood’s trial began on Wednesday. Woods had been scheduled to plead guilty to a single count of the indictment against him on Oct. 9, 2012, but decided against pleading guilty and instead, asked the court to appoint new counsel. Following his arrest on Feb. 3, 2012, U.S. Public Defender Mary Lou Newberger had served as Woods’ counsel. The court appointed William S. Winfrey II, to serve as Woods’ counsel.
During her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Haley Bunn explained the law and explained how the evidence supported conviction on each of the five counts of the superseding indictment. She explained the poor quality of the undercover video in the Jan. 31, 2011 controlled buy. “Admittedly, this is not a reality show with cameras filming from every angle,” she said, and added that the video of the second controlled buy was much better.
She explained the value of the drugs — approximately $160,000 for the cocaine base alone — and explained the law concerning “constructive possession,” as it relates to the cocaine base, the powder cocaine and the weapons. “We do not need to prove to you that the gun was discharged because guns are often the tools of the trade in the drug business,” Bunn said.
During his closing remarks, Winfrey drew upon a metaphoric expression: “a rising tide floats all boats.” Winfrey explained that for some of the government’s case, the evidence was strong, but he suggested that the evidence wasn’t as strong in other parts of the case. He pointed out that in the first controlled buy, the video quality was so poor that “you really can’t see what happened.” He also suggested that the defendant’s actions when he spoke with Ellison did not necessarily constitute a threat.
“Deputy Ellison told him to stop and come down the steps, and he did,” Winfrey said. “And what did he find? Three unloaded pistols. There’s nothing wrong in this country with having three pistols — loaded or unloaded.” He asked the jury to use common sense, take each count and let it stand on its own. “Test the facts. Try these facts and let Judge Faber instruct you on the law,” he said.
AUSA Miller Bushong also asked the jury to consider each of the counts. “The position of the United States is that this man, Brady Woods, is a drug dealer ... a coke dealer and a crack dealer,” he said. He said that defense counsel’s suggestions would lead the jurors on a wild goose chase. “He’s a cocaine dealer. He’s a crack dealer,” Bushong said.
After Faber instructed the jury, the jury began deliberations at 10:45 a.m. After one hour and 20 minutes of deliberating the case, the jury told the court it had reached a verdict at 12:05 p.m. When the jury re-entered the courtroom, the parties discussed an error on count 4 of the verdict form. The jury had marked Woods guilty of both the felony charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine as well as the lesser included charge of simple possession of cocaine.
Faber asked the jury to return to the jury room to determine which of the two different charges they intended. After a brief delay that included a jury room door malfunction, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty on all counts. The court made note that as to count four, the jury marked “error” on the lesser included offense, and clarified that they found the defendant guilty on the felony count of possession of 462.8 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Faber scheduled Woods’ sentencing for 11 a.m., on Aug. 26, at U.S. District Court in Bluefield.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com