By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
With modern surveillance equipment, to videotape controlled drug buys, and task force style investigation techniques, it is unusual for a federal drug indictment to wind up in court. In most cases, defendants enter guilty pleas long before the cases are heard by a jury.
That said, a jury was seated Wednesday afternoon at U.S. District Court in Bluefield and trial got underway for a Mercer County man charged with federal drug charges.
Brady Woods, 37, of Bluefield was named in a five-count federal superseding indictment returned Jan. 15, charging him with two counts of distributing cocaine base, also known as “crack”, on Jan. 31, 2011 and Feb. 3, 2011. Woods was also charged with one count of possessing 1,514 grams of cocaine base, one count of possessing 462.8 grams of cocaine hydrochloride; and one count possessing a .44 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime — all stemming from his arrest on Feb. 3, 2012.
The jury was selected before noon, and after opening statements, the government presented its case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Miller A. Bushong built his case concerning to the first two counts of the indictment on testimony presented by Special Agent E.H. Kennedy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who had worked with a cooperating individual. Along with testimony, the court viewed video evidence, related to counts one and two of the indictment.
AUSA C. Haley Bunn examined Deputy J.D. Ellison of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department who was on the scene of Woods’ residence located at 701 Union Street Ext., in Bluefield on Feb. 3, 2012.
“At some point in time, he made a motion toward a platform on the porch,” Ellison testified about the defendant’s actions on that date. “After back-up arrived, I felt comfortable enough to walk around behind the defendant.” Ellison testified that he found three pistols on the porch near where Woods had reached. He also testified that when he observed a quantity of what appeared to be cocaine in the residence, he contacted the Southern Regional Drug & Violent Crime Task Force.
Cpl. B.S. Burner, of the West Virginia State Police testified under direct examination by Bushong about the cocaine base, cocaine, U.S. currency and a .44 Smith & Wesson weapon found at the residence when they executed a search warrant. Burner also testified about discovering scales used to weigh drugs as well as a pan where cocaine had been cooked to produce cocaine base. He testified that the cocaine base recovered in the search had a street value of about $150,000. Burner also testified that the task force recovered a water bill from Woods’ residence with his name and the Union Street Extension address.
Under cross-examination by defense counsel William F. Winfrey II, Burner reviewed grand jury testimony as to the amount of money that the task force gave the cooperating individual to make the controlled buy. Winfrey suggested that the street value of the drugs seized at the Woods residence would be closer to $80-$90,000. Also during cross-examination, Burner confirmed that the handgun that police recovered was unloaded.
Bushong asked Burner on re-direct: “Do you care if the gun is unloaded?” Burner testified that it did not matter.
Erin M. Angerer, senior forensic chemist with the DEA testified about the quantities of the cocaine base and powder cocaine that the task force recovered during the search. The government rested after Angerer’s testimony.
With the jury absent from the court, Senior Status U.S. District Judge David A. Faber of the Southern District of West Virginia heard Winfrey’s Rule 29 motion for a judgment of acquittal as well as Bunn’s response on behalf of the government. The court denied the defense Rule 29 Motion and the defense rested its case.
After bringing the jury back into the courtroom, Faber asked the jury to return at 9:30 a.m., today to hear closing arguments and to begin deliberations.