Judge allows wiretaps in cocaine case against Aspen man
August 28, 2012
A federal judge has denied a suspected cocaine dealer’s motion to suppress potentially incriminating wiretapping evidence.
Through federal public defender Matthew Belcher, defendant Montgomery Chitty, 60, Aspen, had contended the Drug Enforcement Administration’s use of wiretap surveillance failed to meet the legal criteria because it had not exhausted all other investigative procedures in its probe.
Federal prosecutors, however, had maintained that the DEA had difficulty investigating Aspen’s cocaine network because of uncooperative witnesses. Also, former DEA agent Paul Pedersen, who was a key investigator in the multi-year probe, had stated in an affidavit that he did not believe his informant “could penetrate the organization at a higher level than what has already been accomplished.”
In a ruling made Saturday, U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger stated that Chitty failed to meet the burden of showing why the wiretap was unnecessary, noting that Pedersen’s affidavit “establishes a sufficient basis for issuance of the wiretap authorization …”
Chitty has been in federal custody since agents arrested him in February in Big Pine Key, Fla.
His arrest came nearly nine months after DEA agents in May 2011 netted 10 people, including six in the Aspen-Snowmass area, on conspiracy charges that they trafficked more than 200 kilograms of cocaine between Aspen and Los Angeles over a 15-year period.
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The case against one of the Aspen suspects was dismissed, while five of the other defendants arrested in 2011 have entered guilty pleas.
One of them is Wayne Alan Reid, whom the feds believed was the ringleader, and is awaiting sentence.
Chitty also had challenged two statements that prosecutors plan to use against him. Those statements – both from Reid contending that Chitty was taking his business – were deemed admissible by Krieger.
Krieger said that the prosecution contends that when Reid went to prison in 2000 for drug charges, he asked Chitty to take over his business in Aspen. Chitty agreed, prosecutors allege. But when Reid was released, Chitty still continued to supply to Reid’s customers, thereby ending the conspiracy, Belcher contended.
Belcher had argued that Chitty could not be part of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine -that’s the charge he faces – if he were taking Reid’s business.
“The mere fact that drug dealers are in competition with one another in a particular territory does not prevent them from being members of and furthering a single conspiracy,” the judge wrote.