DENVER - On Monday, former Aspen resident Montgomery Chitty addressed the jurors who could decide whether he will spend the next 20 years of his life behind bars.
"Please bear with me," he said, while conceding that as a non-attorney he wasn't fully knowledgeable about all aspects of the law.
Despite this disclaimer, he nonetheless insisted that the federal government's drug case against him left "more reasonable doubt than you can shake a stick at."
The evidence of the federal government, he told jurors, consists of three people in what amounts to a he-said, she-said case.
Chitty, 61, has most of the week to make his case at U.S. District Court in downtown Denver. But federal prosecutors told jurors that they have the goods on Chitty, who was living in Big Piney Key, Fla., when he was arrested in February 2012. Since then, he has been held in various jails in metropolitan Denver, most recently in Jefferson County Jail in Golden.
Federal prosecutor Michelle Korver told jurors that the case began more than a decade ago, when another Aspen resident, Wayne Reid, who is now 66, was developing a "lucrative cocaine business." After being arrested and then sentenced to prison in 2002, she said, Reid needed somebody to take over his business. Chitty, she said, agreed to do so, and so Chitty became the middleman in Aspen, delivering cocaine to customers and relying upon Reid's supplier in Los Angeles, Alfonso Elvao-Allocati.
But when Reid got out of prison in 2004, prosecutors say he resumed his drug trafficking - until arrested in 2011 along with others in the Aspen area.
When federal Drug Enforcement Administration investigators interviewed suspects, they believed others also were involved.
"During those interviews, the same name came up over and over again, the name of Montgomery Chitty," Korver said.
She promised that during the coming days, the jury of nine women and four men would hear wiretapped conversations between Chitty and Elvao-Allocati and between Chitty and Reid. That and the testimony of other accused drug traffickers turned agents will prove, she said, that Chitty had possessed with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of cocaine.
The jurors were chosen from a pool of 49, all of them residents of the northern Front Range, between Castle Rock and Greeley. They were asked about hobbies, affiliations and their occupations as well as whether they had predetermined attitudes about drugs that would not allow them to reach a fair and impartial decision based on the facts and the law.
"Mr. Chitty is entitled to a fair and impartial jury," said Judge Marcia Kreiger, who also advised the jurors that despite the grave accusations against Chitty, he should be presumed innocent.
But the judicial system itself has been betting against Chitty's ability to prove himself innocent. Because of evidence of bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and 13 trips abroad since 1999, a U.S. magistrate ordered that Chitty would be allowed no freedom while awaiting his trial.
His face pasty from apparent lack of sun and his hair turning white, Chitty was dressed in a black blazer and tan slacks. He is being aided by a private attorney, Denver-based Thomas Goodreid.
After the jury was dismissed for the day on Monday, Chitty put his materials into a box and then was handcuffed. As a man who identified himself to a reporter as Chitty's son stood nearby, Chitty was led out of the courtroom and to an adjacent detention facility, where he is being held for the duration of the trial. The trail was scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and continue through Friday.