Chitty guilty of cocaine charge
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
DENVER – It took a jury about four hours Thursday to find former Aspen resident Montgomery Chitty guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Chitty put his hand on his chin as the verdict was read, showing little reaction. Family members were in attendance, including his son, Warne, whose girlfriend sobbed as the outcome was delivered. As she left, she told Chitty, “I love you.”
“It’s all right,” Chitty said.
Chitty is due back in court May 28 for sentencing. Prosecutors already have said they plan to seek a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for Chitty, 61.
“Today the tireless dedication of a tenacious team of federal prosecutors and DEA special agents resulted in the decisive conviction of a major cocaine dealer in the Aspen area,” said John Walsh, U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, in a statement. “I am proud of this outstanding team and grateful for their dedicated public service.”
The nearly weeklong trial ended Thursday morning as prosecutors painted Chitty as a brilliant drug dealer who avoided detection by making friends with Pitkin County sheriffs over a 30-year period and “living below the radar.”
Chitty, who acted as his own attorney, attacked the prosecution’s case, saying that to believe it, one also would have to believe in “the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele R. Korver argued that Chitty played a major role in a long-running conspiracy to bring cocaine into Aspen and presented testimony from three of Chitty’s alleged co-conspirators. She reminded jurors that one key prosecution witness, Alfonso Elvao-Allocati, said he and Chitty conducted regular drug transactions from 2002 to 2010.
Elvao-Allocati testified that he was Chitty’s drug supplier and that the two had met several times each year in Nevada motels from 2002 to 2010 to exchange cocaine for cash. Prosecutors produced hotel receipts that placed Chitty in the same Mesquite, Nev., motel as Elvao-Allocati. They also played a wiretap conversation between Elvao-Allocati and Chitty that prosecutors said linked the one-time Aspen resident to the drug conspiracy.
Prosecutors said the call, taken from a January 2011 conversation, proved Chitty was up to no good.
“I got to tell you, we have the best in the market,” Elvao-Allocati tells Chitty.
Chitty, who referred to Elvao-Allocati as “Fonz,” goes on to say, “I will try to push people as much as I can. I’ll stay in touch.”
“That speaks for itself,” Korver told jurors. “They are not talking about towels or orange juice. The defendant is doing the buying, and Allocati is selling.”
But Chitty argued that the conversation, as well as the other evidence, proved nothing. He told jurors Elvao-Allocati cut a deal with the government to avoid a life sentence.
“That old fox said just enough lies to save his plea deal,” Chitty said. He added that Elvao-Allocati changed his story during various interviews with prosecutors.
Elvao-Allocati pleaded guilty in January to charges of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. He could be sentenced to 31⁄2 years in prison.
Two others linked to the case, Larry Bartenfelder and Joe Burke, testified against Chitty. Both said they bought cocaine from Chitty during the course of the alleged conspiracy.
Bartenfelder has received immunity in the case. Burke has pleaded to one count and awaits sentencing.
Chitty said both men lied to curry favor with prosecutors.
“Prosecutors have played loose and fast with convicted drug felons who lied,” Chitty argued. “They have great reasons to lie.”
Authorities said the drug ring brought 200 kilograms of cocaine to the Roaring Fork Valley over 15 years. Six upper-valley residents were arrested in May 2011 by the DEA for their roles in the distribution of cocaine. One key figure, Aspen resident Wayne Reid, started the drug business with Elvao-Allocati. Prosecutors contended that Chitty took over Reid’s business after Reid was busted on a marijuana charge. Reid returned to the cocaine trade at the end of his pot case.
According to federal authorities, a confidential informant told DEA agents in March 2010 that Reid distributed cocaine in the upper valley. Federal agents tapped phones belonging to Reid and Elvao-Allocati. The wiretaps exposed the drug conspiracy. Reid has since pleaded to possessing with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and is expected to get a sentence of between four and eight years.
Chitty asked jurors why Reid, whom he described as the true kingpin, never testified. He said Reid was currently in federal custody in Denver, and yet the government kept him hidden from jurors.
“Where is Mr. Reid?” Chitty asked. “He is the heart of the government’s failure. The kingpin is not here to testify. He could tell the whole story.”
Chitty presented several character witnesses during the trial. All spoke about his thrifty lifestyle, his love of family and his work in the community. All said they never heard anything about drugs or Chitty’s connection to any conspiracy.
“The facts speak for themselves,” Chitty told jurors. “Facts that come from those not facing a life sentence.”
Korver got the final word, telling jurors, “The best actor here is the defendant.”
Philip Eastley, who testified as a character witness for Chitty at the trial Wednesday, said the jury got it wrong.
“I think the jury made a wrong decision,” he said. “I’m perplexed why they did not see reasonable doubt. It’s very sad.”
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