The Further Adventures of Willy and Sal

Being thrown in jail was supposed to bring down the curtain on Miami drug lords Willy Falc and Sal Magluta. But there was an encore: Death threats, clandestine cameras, illegal searches, and major security violations.

Over the government's objections, all the material was eventually returned. In an unusual move, Judge Moreno allowed the U.S. Attorney's Office to construct a "Chinese wall." The prosecutor who saw the confidential memos would be prohibited from disclosing their contents to his colleagues prosecuting Falc centsn and Magluta. Defense attorneys groaned. The Chinese wall, they charged, was a sham and would constitute more grounds for appeal if any of their clients were found guilty.

The intense jousting between prosecutors and defense attorneys continued unabated into July, when Prison Life magazine -- distributed to state and federal institutions across the nation -- ran a large advertisement listing the names of nearly 30 people expected to testify as witnesses against Falc centsn and Magluta. The ad, placed by the defense attorneys, was similar to one they had placed earlier in The Champion, a national magazine for criminal defense attorneys. The defense team justified the Champion ad by saying they were interested in talking to attorneys who may have represented those witnesses in other cases.

They offered a similar justification for the ad in Prison Life, contending they hoped to hear from inmates who may have information about potential witnesses, many of whom are in prison. But prosecutors viewed the Prison Life ad as a "hit list" or a "rats list." Prisoners who recognized the names of fellow inmates were now aware that these men were cooperating with federal prosecutors. "This has resulted in the harassment and intimidation of those inmates appearing on the list by other federal prisoners," wrote lead prosecutor Christopher Clark.

Federal officials began to find other reasons to level charges of misconduct against the defense team. Private investigators working for the defendants, they claimed, have tapped into the state's motor vehicle records in an effort to trace vehicles used by the U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for transporting prisoners. Furthermore, prosecutors stated in court papers, "United States Probation Officers who are currently assigned the supervision of persons considered to be potential government witnesses in this case have also reported being followed by strangers. In addition, the government has learned that during the week of July 26, 1993, private investigators surveilled and photographed the federal courthouse in Miami. These same individuals also photographed the vehicles used by the United States Marshals to transfer prisoners from MCC to the courthouse."

The following day, July 27, a group of marshals confronted a woman videotaping the federal courthouse. The woman identified herself as a private investigator and said she was hired by Miami attorney Neil Taylor to photograph the way the marshals move prisoners from the courthouse. "It should be noted that Mr. Taylor was previously retained by Magluta in relation to this case," prosecutors added.

Taylor claims prosecutors are deliberately misleading the court. He says he withdrew from representing Magluta more than a year ago. The investigator he hired was working on another case, and her videotaping was done with the permission of prosecutors. "The government knew that what I was doing didn't have a goddamn thing to do with the Falc centsn and Magluta case, but they put it in [court papers] anyway," Taylor says angrily. "It's wrong and somebody should call them on it. It's getting crazy."

Defense attorneys cite another example of what they believe has been prosecutorial paranoia: the big crane theory. For a time federal prison officials told the court that Falc centsn and Magluta should not be housed in the prison at Atlanta because they represented an extreme escape risk. The specific basis for their concern? A large crane temporarily at the prison for a construction project. Officials feared Falc centsn and Magluta might somehow use it to hoist themselves over the prison wall.

Prosecutors and federal investigators insist their overall concerns are legitimate. In addition to the overt acts of violence, for example, they say at least two federal agents and their families were moved out of South Florida this summer following very specific threats on their lives in connection with the Falc centsn-Magluta case.

Also, on several occasions this year, Colombian nationals, claiming to be private investigators, have been discovered sitting on bus benches across the street from the DEA's West Dade headquarters, monitoring traffic in and out of the building. In each instance, when federal agents realized they were being watched, they summoned Metro-Dade police to question the Colombians, who have refused to name their employers or reveal the purpose of their surveillance.

Another example: Witnesses have received harassing phone calls from Falc centsn's and Magluta's families. In July, prosecutors claim, Falc centsn's mother telephoned a member of witness Luis Mendez's family with instructions that he was to call Falc centsn-Magluta attorney Mark Dachs. When the family member refused, prosecutors say Falc centsn's mother ended the call by saying, "May God protect him." Mendez's wife also reported to law enforcement officials that she was verbally assaulted by friends of Falc centsn while sitting outside the courtroom.

Alleged misconduct, however, has not been limited to defendants and their families. This past summer two former smugglers turned government informants were caught with a cellular phone and several beepers inside the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, the county jail where the two were being held. Janelle Hall, spokeswoman for the county corrections department, confirms the discovery and adds that an investigation is under way. Following the incident, the two inmates were turned over to U.S. Marshals and transferred from the jail.

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