By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
When the first load landed successfully, Dyess and Reddish were each paid $25,000. Dyess became sheriff later that year, after his father was stabbed to death by a fifteen-year-old boy. When he ran for election, however, he lost. And although Falc centsn and Magluta continued flying cocaine into the ranch for several months after his defeat, the operation was shut down toward the end of 1981.
All together, Dyess claimed, he had helped bring a dozen loads of cocaine into the ranch for Falc centsn and Magluta, and was paid a total of $354,000.
The defense again capitalized on the notion that Dyess was involved in no illegal drug transactions with Falc centsn and Magluta after 1981. And even though he was elected sheriff in 1984 and held that office until 1993, he testified that he was never approached by the pair about resuming their drug smuggling operation in Hendry County.
Throughout his cross-examination, Martin Weinberg pressed another point. "You were a corrupt sheriff, were you not?"
"I was a crooked sheriff," Dyess responded.
"What is your definition of a bad sheriff?" Weinberg asked.
"I can say a good one is one that doesn't break the law," Dyess answered. "And a bad one is sitting right here."
Weinberg introduced campaign brochures and ads Dyess ran during his re-election campaigns. One ad stated that no one in Hendry County was "so big that they are above the law." That was a lie, Weinberg suggested. Wouldn't Dyess himself have been a "Mr. Big, above the law in Hendry County?"
"I'm not now," Dyess meekly replied. "I am in prison."
Dyess was arrested on January 4, 1993, and was subsequently convicted on charges stemming from his drug-smuggling activities. Under federal guidelines, he'll do at least 85 percent of of his sentence of nearly eighteen years, unless prosecutors request a reduction in return for his cooperation.
"You understand as you sit here today that the only person that can help you get a sentence reduction is the prosecutor," Weinberg stated. "You know as you sit here, testifying in this court of law, that if Mr. Clark sits there in judgment and is not happy with the testimony you give, you will end up serving seventeen years, seven months. Correct?"
"So your life, or the next sixteen years of your life, is up to the man at that table," Weinberg went on, pointing toward Clark.
"That is a lot of power he has, doesn't he?"
Before Dyess could reply, the prosecutor objected and Judge Moreno instructed Weinberg to move on.
As the trial nears the end of its second month, a pattern has emerged: firsthand accounts of a smuggling organization believed to be one of the largest in its day, followed by relentless cross-examination. More than two dozen witnesses have already testified, filling nearly 5000 pages of court transcripts. Four hundred exhibits have been entered into evidence.
But one exhibit has yet to be admitted. If left unchallenged, it threatens to destroy the defense's suggestion that Falc centsn and Magluta stopped smuggling after the early Eighties. Christopher Clark told the jury during his opening statement that when Falc centsn and Magluta were arrested, agents seized ledgers and records of an ongoing criminal enterprise. (Defense attorneys had argued for several years -- all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- that the ledgers should not be admitted because they had been seized illegally. They lost that fight.)
"These records reflect that from 1988 until their arrest in 1991, these two defendants were responsible for the distribution of 35,000 kilograms of cocaine, that this was from an inventory that they had on hand of 55,000 kilograms of cocaine," Clark said. He claimed that from 1988 to 1991, $435 million in cocaine had been bought and sold by Falc centsn and Magluta. "Staggering figures," he added.
Although it is not part of the indictment, prosecutors contend Falc centsn and Magluta continued to operate an enormous drug empire even after their arrest in 1991. And Clark told jurors that in the attic of one of the pair's employees, DEA agents found 3000 kilos of cocaine, worth $50 million.
The prosecutor also told of a raid on a second stash house that proved unsuccessful. The cocaine, estimated by government informants to have amounted to more than 1000 kilos, had already been smuggled out.
Prosecutors say they have no idea where that cocaine ended up.