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Trial for cocaine, oxy distribution continues

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Editor’s Note: The names and hometowns of a confidential informant and two undercover law enforcement officers were not used in this story.

“One girl or two girl” are the terms alleged cocaine and oxycodone dealer John White, 39, used for identifying sales of 1 and 2 grams of cocaine, according to a state of Alaska confidential informant testifying Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court. White is on trial for allegedly selling cocaine and oxycodone to the informant and an undercover police officer last year.

“That was the name J (White) said to use for buying grams,” the informant said. “They could never make up their minds on a price. It was higher with supply and demand or lower if they needed rent money.”

White is charged with three counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance (cocaine) in the third degree; and one count of misconduct involving a controlled substance (MICS), the powerful narcotic oxycontin.

White’s girlfriend Priscilla Barr, 33, faced one second degree and one third-degree count of MICS. In a change of plea hearing, Barr pleaded guilty on Monday to seven years with four suspended for a reduced charge of attempted second-degree MICS.

After jury selection and opening statements on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp began her witness selections.

A male Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs (SEACAD) undercover officer’s testimony carried over into Tuesday, followed by the informant’s.

The officer used a cover as a boss looking to hire an employee, but also looking for some drugs, to gain trust with White. The informant first made contact with White by “spending street time” at two local bars, identifying the actions of White as suspicious and then buying drinks for people who knew White and could introduce him.

“They think they are invisible and discreet,” the informant said. “They just want your money and once you get them talking they don’t shut up.”

The male officer testified informants are paid on a per-buy system. The informant received $100 per buy, plus room and board in Juneau.

Attorney Marcus Rogers from the Office of Public Advocacy, representing White, questioned the informant’s motives and a prior deal with another police agency to “work off” an alleged cocaine incident.

After an initial buy on May 27 outside the Imperial Bar on Front Street, the officer was introduced to White and Barr at their residence in an apartment near the Governor’s Mansion. Two subsequent buys were arranged in June at that location, and the informant wore a listening device.

The male officer said he didn’t see who actually delivered the drugs on the first buy, but said Barr stated if White got a job, she would continue selling drugs out of the apartment.

Kemp also called forensic scientist Jack Hurd from the Scientific Crime Detection Lab in Anchorage. Hurd described the testing process for various drugs and identified evidence from the state’s case against White that tested positive for cocaine and oxycodone, the generic name for the painkiller OxyContin. Rogers did not cross-examine the witness.

An undercover female SEACAD investigator testified she was assigned by Alaska State Troopers Sgt. Christopher Russell to aid in a May 27 controlled buy between White and the informant near the bar. She was positioned in an unmarked vehicle near the Glacier Theater where White, the informant, and Barr allegedly made a transaction.

She said Barr appeared to be a lookout, staying on the street while White and the informant entered the theater alcove.

“We ended up being right on top of the action,” the female SEACAD officer said. “The informant looked at us, made eye contact, and went back into the bar.”

She was involved in the execution of a search warrant on White’s residence and identified evidence photographs from that event.

The female SEACAD officer said she recovered a quantity of oxycodone pills from Barr’s pocket during the search, and noticed digital drug scales, a pill cutter and marijuana in the apartment.

Rogers said the female officer could not see White or the informant in the alcove, or see them make the transaction, but could observe Barr acting suspicious. Rogers also said that White was not in the apartment during the search and was not found with any drugs on his person when arrested.

The female undercover officer stated the plan was to have White out of the apartment when the search was made.

Investigator Rayme Vinson, under a federal contract for drug enforcement through the Sitka police department, the unit that employs the grant for SEACAD, testified he was assigned by Russell as the case officer for the June 8 buy. Vinson detailed the procedure for searching the informant pre- and post-buy and his involvement as an observer to assist as safety officer due to familiarity with the apartment complex from prior employment with the JPD. Vinson was the first officer to contact Barr at the apartment search, as he knew her from previous police work, and verified the results.

On cross-examination by the defense, Vinson revealed a young female and two males were also at the apartment when the warrant was served, and were allowed to leave after a records search by Juneau police.

Russell, the unit supervisor for SEACAD, testified he contacted a law enforcement agency for a paid confidential informant, did background research on the informant, and sent the informant into the downtown Juneau scene.

“It is a more effective way to buy drugs if you have someone who can dedicate themselves to buying drugs,” Russell said. “Most communities in Southeast are small enough where people, everyone knows each other.”

Russell confirmed the female SEACAD officer’s recounting of the controlled buy on May 27 at the bar. Russell observed a Crown Royal bag given from Barr to White at the Glacier Theatre alcove where White and the informant were talking, he said. Russell was assigned to monitoring the male officers’ radio receiver during the June 8 and June 9 buys near the Governor’s Mansion, which yielded cocaine and oxycodone. Russell also took entry and exit photos during the warranted search.

Final testimony, and the jury’s decision, are expected today.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.



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