Jervis Wise, an attorney here in the Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand, obtained a not guilty verdict this week for a client in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. Wise’s client was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. If convicted, he faced 10 years to life in prison. Fortunately, however, the client was acquitted and did not face sentencing.
Mr. Courtney Allen, a 34 year-old father, was alleged to have conspired with at least one other individual to purchase a half kilogram of cocaine for sale and distribution. The deal had been orchestrated by law enforcement officers who had arranged for a sale to be made by a confidential source who was working undercover with law enforcement and who faced federal drug charges himself. Allen had been a passenger in the car of another individual who attempted to make the cocaine purchase in the parking lot of a large shopping center in Manatee County, Florida. Allen and the other individual were arrested shortly after the attempted purchase fell through.
Law enforcement alleged that Allen and the attempted purchaser of the cocaine had pooled their funds together to make the attempted cocaine purchase. It similarly alleged that Allen and the attempted purchaser had discussed the drug deal over cell phones during a video-recorded meeting with the confidential source when the terms of the cocaine purchase were negotiated. Law enforcement further purported that cell phone records of Allen and the attempted purchaser linked them to one another in the purported cocaine conspiracy.
Following their indictment in the federal district court, Mr. Allen and the attempted purchaser proceeded to jury trial. The Government’s theory at trial was that Allen had knowingly and willfully entered into the conspiracy with his co-defendant to purchase the half kilogram of cocaine with intent to later distribute those drugs in smaller quantities. The defense disputed that Mr. Allen ever had knowledge of the cocaine deal or that he ever entered into any conspiracy to purchase or otherwise possess the cocaine. Allen established at trial that his association and communications with the co-defendant were legitimate and did not relate to any drug dealings.
After approximately five hours of deliberations, the jury ultimately returned a not guilty verdict for Mr. Allen. Had he been convicted, he would have faced a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence, with a potential sentence of up to life in prison.