BANGOR, Maine — The jury trial of two men accused of being part of a crack cocaine ring that operated in the Queen City for more than a year began Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Manuel “Fish” Trinidad-Acosta, 29, of New York City, the alleged local ringleader, and Edward Cogswell, 47, of Bangor are being tried together before U.S. District Judge John Woodcock.
Trinidad-Acosta and Cogswell are charged with one count each of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. Trinidad-Acosta also is charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime.
Trinidad-Acosta has been held without bail since his arrest Feb. 2 in New York City, where he waived extradition. Cogswell remains free on $10,000 unsecured bail.
More than a dozen people were charged in federal court in connection with the operation. Most of the other defendants have either pleaded guilty or been convicted by juries in separate trials and are expected to testify against the defendants.
The ring operated between October 2010 and Nov. 3, 2011, primarily out of apartments on Ohio Street in Bangor, according to court documents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Feith, based in Concord, N.H., described Trinidad-Acosta as the man who ran the local operation and Cogswell as a dealer who was involved in the larger conspiracy. Court officials would not say why Feith is prosecuting the case in Maine.
Defense attorney Stephen Smith in his opening statement told the jury of seven men and seven women, including two alternates, that Trinidad-Acosta was a native of the Dominican Republic and did not speak English well enough to be a major player in any drug operation in Maine. Smith urged jurors to consider what witnesses who have admitted to breaking the law have to gain by taking the stand.
Cogswell’s attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, said in his opening statement that his client was a drug user but not involved in the major conspiracy. Tzovarras said that when the police raided the Ohio Street apartment on Nov. 3, 2011, Cogswell went out to talk to the police while the “drug dealers” grabbed the money, drugs and guns, then went through an attic crawl space into the adjacent apartment and hid under a bed.
Jowenky “Bullet” Nunez, 30, of New York City, N.Y., and Pauline Rossignol, 53, of Brewer are the most recent defendants to plead guilty to drug conspiracy charges. Both were scheduled to be tried with Trinidad-Acosta and Cogswell until about two weeks ago, when it was made public through court documents that they would plead guilty.
Nunez and Rossignol, along with nearly all their co-defendants, are on the federal prosecutor’s witness list. Most still are awaiting sentencing.
If convicted, both men face a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison. They also could be ordered to each pay a $5 million fine.
The trial is expected to continue through the end of next week.