In Pursuit of Willy and Sal, Part Two

Having lost their case against the drug kingpins, federal prosecutors vowed to convict jury foreman Miguel Moya of bribery. Didn't quite work out that way.

Jury deliberations in the trial of Miguel Moya and his parents, Jose and Rafaela, began on Monday, February 1. Right away jurors dispensed with several of the fourteen charges. They unanimously voted "not guilty" on a count of bribery conspiracy against the parents as there was no evidence they had been part of the scheme to collect the alleged bribe.

They voted to convict Miguel Moya of witness-tampering owing to a conversation he had with one of his wife's relatives, Mark Vera, in which he encouraged Vera to lie to federal agents about money he had given Vera.

And they voted to convict Jose Moya of witness-tampering because he asked the man who sold him the Keys home to tell IRS agents he was still paying off the mortgage when he knew that was a lie. The calls between Miguel and Vera, and those between Jose and the former owner of the Keys home, were recorded on FBI wiretaps.

The remaining counts revolved around one question: Did Miguel Moya accept a bribe? Several jurors said the videotape quickly became the key to the entire case. They watched it over and over, and dissected its transcription. On their first vote, seven jurors believed Miguel Moya was guilty and five voted not guilty.

By the second day, the vote had shifted slightly, with eight members of the jury voting to convict Moya and four voting to acquit. On the third day of deliberations, it was still eight to four. Tensions began to mount in the jury room. Finally, on day four, jurors seemed to have hardened in their positions. Nine jurors were now voting to convict Moya of taking a bribe; two were steadfastly voting "not guilty," and one had declared herself undecided but leaning toward "not guilty." Realizing they were at an impasse, they sent a note to Judge King informing him they were hopelessly deadlocked. That afternoon King declared a mistrial and sent the jury home.

Inexplicably the judge never asked if they had reached a verdict on any counts, and the jurors didn't think to tell him they had. As a result the votes to convict Miguel and Jose Moya of witness-tampering, and to acquit the parents of conspiracy, were nullified. Both sides, prosecution and defense, will have to start from scratch when the case is retried beginning April 5.

One of those "not guilty" votes was cast by the sole male on the jury, Juror 6 (all the jurors interviewed for this story asked that their names not be used), who said the government never proved its case. He certainly didn't believe Moya's ex-wife Virginia, he said, and he wasn't comfortable with the videotape.

"The videotape was strong, it was very powerful," he acknowledged, "but when you go back to the root of it, I started having problems." FBI undercover agent Jack Garcia was sent to trick Moya into confessing, he said. "The guy they used was a specialist," Juror 6 noted. "The intimidation factor that was used in that tape was incredible." He concluded that Moya would have said anything to get away. "How did he know [Garcia] wasn't going to blow his head off right there in the parking garage if he didn't start agreeing with him?" asked the man, a 36-year-old dog trainer.

Juror 6 added that the other "not guilty" vote (Juror 12) agreed with his interpretation of the encounter in the parking garage. But Juror 12 went even further: She believed the videotape had been tampered with and couldn't be trusted. The audio and the video didn't match up, Juror 12 noticed, and it made her suspicious. "I think it was doctored, too," said Juror 6, "but that wasn't my main concern."

It was ludicrous, Juror 6 thought, for the government to insist that the Moyas were not in the drug business with Ray Perez. "It was obvious the family was all over the drug thing," he said. "To say they weren't, well, that was just dumb." Juror 6 also found Ray Perez to be entertaining. "He was a character," he laughed. "The guy is obviously very tight with his family."

Juror 3 was the undecided vote leaning toward acquittal. A twenty-year-old student, she said she just couldn't reach a decision, but if deliberations had continued, "I would have said 'not guilty.'" A number of issues bothered her about the government's case, and she felt Virginia Perez wasn't telling the truth. "She's a liar," Juror 3 flatly declared.

"A lot of the jurors thought he did take a bribe because of the video," she continued. "I still think he just wanted to get the guy out of his face and would tell him anything. The agent was very threatening. I think he really scared him." She said Moya repeatedly wiped the perspiration from his brow in the video, which proved to her he was extremely nervous.

Juror 3 was also swayed by Ray Perez's testimony. "I thought he was just lying in the beginning," she said, "but in the end I did believe Ray."

The jury forewoman (Juror 1) and Juror 11 were two of the stronger advocates for convicting Moya, though both acknowledged the testimony from Virginia Perez couldn't be trusted. The key for them, they said, was the videotape. "It was very strong evidence," Juror 11 reported, but she wished the quality of the tape had been better: "It might have made a difference for the people voting 'not guilty.'" But she couldn't sway those jurors who thought the tape had been manipulated. "I tried to argue that they would not have put it into evidence if it had been tampered with," she said, "but they still felt something was wrong with the tape."

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