Jury finds 2 men guilty in connections with crack cocaine ring

Posted Jan. 31, 2013, at 9:57 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 31, 2013, at 6:21 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A jury on Thursday found two men guilty of federal drug charges in connection with a crack cocaine distribution ring that operated out of adjacent apartments on Ohio Street.

M anuel “Fish” Trinidad-Acosta, 29, of New York City, and Edward Cogswell, 47, of Bangor were found guilty on one count each of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. Trinidad-Acosta also was found guilty of one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime.

The trial began Jan. 24 before U.S. District Judge John Woodcock in federal court in Bangor. The jury deliberated less than two hours before announcing its verdict.

Woodcock did not set sentencing dates for the two men but did order that Cogswell be held without bail until he is sentenced. Cogswell had been free on $10,000 unsecured bail.

Trinidad-Acosta has been held without bail since his arrest in November 2011 in New York City. Woodcock said he would continue to be held without bail.

Efforts to reach federal prosecutors and local defense attorneys involved in the case were unsuccessful late Thursday afternoon.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Feith, based in Concord, N.H., in his closing argument described Trinidad-Acosta as the man who helped run the local operation and Cogswell as a dealer who was involved in the larger conspiracy.

The prosecutor told jurors that at least half a dozen co-defendants who have pleaded guilty to being involved in the drug distribution ring testified about Trinidad-Acosta and Cogswell’s involvement. Feith also pointed to bank records that showed Trinidad-Acosta and Cogswell had deposited large amounts of cash into the bank accounts of Dawlin “Boss Man” Cabrera, 30, of New York City. Cabrera ran the operation, the prosecutor said Thursday.

The U.S. attorney’s office has not said why Feith is prosecuting the case in Maine.

Bangor attorney Stephen Smith, who is representing Trinidad-Acosta, told jurors they should be skeptical when evaluating the testimony of every government witness who is a co-defendant of his client. By testifying for the prosecution, each one hopes to receive a lesser sentence, Smith said.

The defense attorney also told the jury that although police set up controlled buys with a cooperating defendant that were recorded, no evidence that Trinidad-Acosta was involved was introduced except one photograph. Smith said it was too out of focus for anyone to be identified.

“That is a black blob wearing clothes,” Smith said holding up an 8-by-10-inch color photograph for jurors.

In his closing argument, Cogswell’s attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, described his client as a customer, rather than a conspirator. He said that Cogswell was arrested Nov. 3, 2011, when local police and drug agents raided adjacent apartments on Ohio Street.

Tzovarras told jurors that Cogswell had been living in one bedroom of the apartment for a few weeks with his girlfriend but was not selling drugs. The attorney said the prosecution had “introduced no documents, no phone records, no text messages, no surveillance tapes nor customers” to prove Cogswell was part of the operation that brought crack cocaine from New York City to Bangor.

“The constitution means something, even for a crack user,” Tzovarras said.

Cogswell wept quietly at the defense table as his attorney addressed the jury.

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 were on the prosecution’s witness list.

The ring operated between October 2010 and Nov. 3, 2011, primarily out of apartments on Ohio Street in Bangor, according to court documents.

If convicted, both men face a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge. They also could be ordered to each pay a fine of up to $5 million. On the gun charge, Trinidad-Acosta faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of life.

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