The Trial of Willy & Sal

Smuggling coke by the ton and making money by the bushel. Getting tortured in Panama and eating smoked pork loin in Houston. The courtroom show is riveting, but like Al says, where's the justice?

"All kinds of ways to get a sentence reduction," Black repeated. "Isn't that right?"

"If your cooperation is substantial, yes sir," Valdes said.
"Sometimes it is only limited by the imagination of the inmates in the prison," Black added sarcastically.

To reinforce their contention that Falc centsn and Magluta were not involved in drug smuggling in the mid- and late Eighties, defense attorneys pointed out that after Valdes got out of jail in 1985 and went back to distributing cocaine, he had almost no contact with either Falc centsn or Magluta, even though he renewed his relationships with almost every other doper he had dealt with previously.

Black and Krieger also used Valdes to attack the image of the DEA as a pack of goons willing to allow Panamanian officials to torture American citizens suspected of drug trafficking.

"You mentioned that you were tortured," Black began.
"Yes, I was," Valdes replied.
"They used cattle prods," Black recalled. "This is an electrical device that can be painful, particularly depending upon where they put it on your body?"

"Where they put it was extremely painful," Valdes agreed.
"And that because of the tortures that were inflicted upon you, you suffered for many years thereafter," Black pressed.

"For about five years, every time I went to the bathroom, I bled," Valdes answered.

"And is it not true that it is your belief that the Drug Enforcement Administration was working with the Panamanian authorities and authorizing this torture?" Black asked.

Prosecutor Christopher Clark objected, arguing that the subject of torture was irrelevant to the case at hand. Black countered by saying, "I think it certainly does explain to the jury just how far they are willing to go to make a case."

Moreno sustained Clark's objection. Later, though, Krieger weighed in with the same question: "Your appraisal was that the Americans -- that is, the DEA -- was participating in the torture?"

"My appraisal was that they had ordered the tortures, yes, sir," Valdes said. "I believe that today."

After Valdes, the next major witness to testify was Earl Sermon Dyess, Jr., former sheriff of Hendry County. Dyess, whose nickname was "The Preacher," is serving an eighteen-year sentence for drug smuggling.

He had been introduced to Falc centsn and Magluta by Jorge Valdes in 1979, before Valdes went off to prison. It was Valdes's idea to use a secluded ranch near Clewiston, just south of Lake Okeechobee, as a landing strip for their cocaine imports.

Dyess's involvement was vital. When the plan first took shape, he was a captain (later to become sheriff) in the sheriff's department, in charge of the narcotics unit. His father, Earl Dyess, Sr., was the sheriff, and had been for more than twenty years. Through a mutual friend named Butch Reddish, Valdes and the younger Dyess met. "It didn't take me but a minute to figure out that he had to be in the drug business," Dyess testified. "He had a lot of gold on him and he drove a somewhat flashy car. He was somewhat of a flashy fellow himself."

Neither Dyess nor Reddish was earning much at the time, and they jumped at the chance to earn easy money. "I wasn't given an amount that I would receive," Dyess told jurors. "Just that I would make more money than I had ever seen in my life."

By the time the first load of cocaine was flown into the ranch in 1980, Valdes had been packed off to prison. He now took his orders from Falc centsn and Magluta, Dyess said.

Throughout his testimony, Dyess was something of a comical character, a caricature of a redneck sheriff. For a time, every incident he described to the jury seemed to have been memorable not because he was engaged in a massive conspiracy to import cocaine but rather because of the food he was eating at the time.

On a trip to Dallas with Falc centsn and Magluta: "The reason I remember it so good is we got there that night and I ate one of them sandwiches out of one of them vending machines and it didn't sit well with me."

On a trip to Houston: "I was eating some smoked pork loin. I had never had it before, and I remember it because it was very good."

On the first time Falc centsn and Magluta flew a load of cocaine into Hendry County: "I remember it well. . . . We went to Butch's 7-Eleven, got some beer and Cokes and crackers."

Despite the snacks, that first load caused a bit of a scare. Butch Reddish and Dyess were waiting near the ranch when they heard a report on the sheriff's radio that a plane had gone down and deputies were responding to the scene. Both men panicked, believing the drug shipment had been discovered. When it turned out to be a false alarm (the plane that had been spotted had nothing to do with Falc centsn and Magluta), Dyess reported, he found the coincidence kind of amusing. "But Butch was going ballistic," he recalled. "He was looking at me, and his face was -- he was mad. I said, 'What in the world is wrong with you, boy?' I mean, Butch and I were like brothers all our lives. And he said, 'Well, if that had been [our] plane, I'm supposed to kill you.' I said, 'You crazy?!' He said, 'No. I'm supposed to kill you, because if they get caught and I don't kill you, then they are going to kill me and my family.'"

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