Washington's first drug trial begins today

Merchant accused of distributing cocaine to sell in Juneau

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2008

Jury selection in Aaron Washington's trial for alleged cocaine distribution is expected to begin this morning in Juneau Superior Court.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Washington, a 42-year-old merchant, stands accused of delivering cocaine to a Juneau woman that police later arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The driver told police she was selling the drug for Washington.

Charges were brought by a grand jury indictment based on witness testimony.

In September, Washington will again face a jury as a codefendant in a larger trial wherein the state alleges he conspired to run a criminal enterprise that imported and sold pounds of cocaine in Juneau since 2003 with alleged partner Vonnie Williams, 44.

A joint investigation between the Juneau police and Alaska State Troopers resulted in 19 drug-related charges against Washington. A woman who claims to have been Washington's source of "kilo after kilo" of cocaine is behind 11 of the charges.

The organized crime is thought to be the first of its kind in Juneau.

In a jailhouse interview, Washington said police and prosecutors were pushing on him a larger title than is real. If the police had arrested a "ring leader" as claimed, there would be less drugs on the street, he said.

"Nothing has slowed down," he said.

Following jury selection, the Juneau District Attorney's Office is expected to call expert witnesses to identify what police found on the woman as cocaine. Testimony claiming the cocaine was Washington's is expected also, according to court records.

Police have yet to connect any drugs directly to Washington. Instead they claim he used women as "drug mules" to bring drugs in from the Lower 48.

Washington has been held in Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $75,000 bail since police arrested him at his girlfriend's home in the Mendenhall Valley last spring. In recent filings, Washington's girlfriend asked the court to lift a no-contact order in an effort to plan for their wedding.

Washington said he was a legit businessman with stores in Juneau and Oregon before his arrest. Careful with his words, Washington said he wasn't exactly "innocent" either.

"It's not like I've never done anything wrong," Washington said.

• Contact reporter Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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