The Impossible Victory

The feds spent years building their case against drug kingpins Willy Falc centsn and Sal Maglutaa. Life in prison was assured. Too bad the jury didn't see it that way.

This past Friday, after spending 52 months in prison (mostly in solitary confinement), Sal Magluta walked out of downtown Miami's federal detention center a relatively free man. For a week following the verdict, the government sought to keep Magluta and Falc centsn in jail, citing federal money-laundering charges still pending against them in Jacksonville. But a judge granted Magluta bail, noting that he had already served more time awaiting trial than he could possibly receive even if he were found guilty of money laundering.

Falc centsn, however, remained in jail, held without bond on an eight-year-old weapons charge. "They are obsessed," Roy Black says of prosecutors' efforts to find any excuse possible to keep Falc centsn and Magluta in jail. "They were obsessed before the trial, during the trial, and it carries on now. I think there is no doubt about it."

That obsession, or anger, spilled out publicly last week when prosecutors and federal agents released details of two plea-bargain discussions that took place prior to the trial. Under the terms of the most recent offer, Falc centsn and Magluta were reportedly offering to turn over $25 million in cash and 1000 kilos of cocaine in return for a guilty plea and a promise of a light sentence. After the acquittal, prosecutor Pat Sullivan told the Miami Herald: "Now they have $25 million to spend and 1000 kilos to peddle."

"I was very upset reading that," Martin Weinberg says. "I think it is a very bad precedent for the U.S. Attorney's Office to try to publicly embarrass the jury or undermine a jury's verdict with loose talk about whether or not there were plea discussions. Why would lawyers ever again engage in frank discussions with the U.S. Attorney's Office if they knew that at the end of a trial, if the government loses, they were going to put them on the front page of a newspaper?"

Asked about prosecutor Clark's earlier assertion that Falc centsn and Magluta have "hundreds of millions of dollars" stashed away in foreign bank accounts, Albert Krieger says simply: "More power to them if they have it. It matters not a thing to me."

Nor should the public be upset by the verdict. "I don't think it has any effect on life in America if there was a conviction in this case or an acquittal," Krieger says. "One of the things I was doing during some of the boring moments of the trial was trying to extrapolate from the various seizures how many people on a given day would have to be sniffing cocaine in order to use up all this stuff. And you run into millions of people. If millions of people are using cocaine, then we have such a widespread drug culture that it doesn't matter if it was Sal and Willy bringing it in or anyone else. Someone is going to be bringing it in because nature abhors a vacuum.

"Would Willy or Sal go back into the business?" Krieger asks rhetorically. "My personal opinion, assuming they have committed crimes in the past, is no. They've come too close to the jaws of the tiger. They are not going back into the jungle.

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