Credibility of key witness is questioned

Judge expects Washington trial to wrap up today

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008

The character of the state's key witness was the central focus during much of Wednesday's trial of Aaron Washington, the alleged leader of a drug trafficking ring who is being charged with dealing cocaine to the witness while she was an undercover police informant.

Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg said he expected the trial to conclude today, the fourth day of the trial.

Washington's lawyer, William Carey, spent much of the day Wednesday trying to undermine the credibility of Geralyn Sue Dougherty, the state's key witness.

Under cross examination by Carey, Dougherty, 41, said she had been a frequent drug mule who continued to deal and use drugs after she cut a deal with police to obtain cocaine from Washington while she wore a hidden recording device in exchange for help with her own legal troubles.

"I got high often, I got high almost daily. It was a part of my daily routine. If I had the money and the means, I got high," said Dougherty, who is serving a four-year sentence for drug crimes.

Dougherty said police officers knew she was using and dealing drugs while she worked for them. She said they did not condone her behavior, and told her not to "get caught."

Dougherty also disclosed that she had sexual relations with Washington. She said she felt poorly about the decision to testify against him.

"I feel like I betrayed Aaron," Dougherty said, adding that she agreed to testify to avoid facing federal charges and to have part of her sentence reduced.

"In order to save myself, I had to (testify)," she said.

Washington, 42, is also scheduled to appear in court in September on charges that he and co-defendant Vonnie Williams ran a criminal enterprise that imported pounds of cocaine into Juneau since 2003. Dougherty is expected to be a witness in that case as well.

Wednesday was Dougherty's second straight day on the witness stand.

On Tuesday, Juneau District Attorney Doug Gardner played a tape recording of a conversation that Dougherty said occurred on March 10, 2007 at Washington's apartment in Douglas, and in which Washington gave her small amounts of cocaine. Dougherty said she wore a police-issued secret recording device, or a wire, for that conversation.

On Wednesday, Gardner played a second tape that Dougherty said was secretly recorded on March 11, 2007, at Washington's apartment. Again, she said she wore a wire for that conversation and Washington handed her small bags of cocaine.

Dougherty said that at one point during their conversation, Washington noticed that her fingertips had ink on them. Dougherty said the ink was left over from when she'd been finger printed by police earlier in the day.

She told the jury that she told Washington the ink was from a pen that broke while she was organizing his business receipts, which she said she did for Washington as a favor to help him with his taxes.

Washington owned a clothing store in downtown Juneau and one in New York, according to Carey.

On both recordings, much of the conversation is inaudible, and the man Dougherty identifies as Washington does not say that he is handing Dougherty cocaine.

During cross examination, Dougherty said she smoked crack cocaine between the two alleged visits to Washington's residence, and that she couldn't tell what time of day the first meeting had occurred.

"Does the use of cocaine and crack affect your memory?" Carey asked Dougherty at one point in the trial.

"Not always, no," she replied.

Juneau police officer Dominic Branson, who was assigned to keep surveillance on Dougherty, testified that he saw her walk toward and away from Washington's apartment during both meetings. He said he could not see her enter or leave the apartment from his vantage point.

Dougherty said there was a drug dealer who sometimes stayed in an apartment near Washington's.

Gardner played a third tape of a conversation that Dougherty said took place at Washington's apartment on March 12, 2007. Again, she said the conversation was recorded in secret.

During that conversation, the man who Dougherty said was Washington coached her on how to dress and behave on an upcoming drug smuggling trip to New York City. They also set Dougherty's per diem for that trip at $10 a meal.

"You should have your own spending money," Washington allegedly said. "I'm not paying, I mean that's on you. I mean if you want a souvenir."

On the tape, Dougherty says she bought a bottle of lubricant. She explained to the jury that she smuggled drugs in her body cavities, and the lubricant was needed to help get the drugs "where they need to be."

Also on the tape, the man Dougherty identified as Washington tells her to stay off drugs before traveling.

"What is our number one goal with traveling ... the most important thing?" the man says on the tape.

He answers his own question: "Safety, safety, safety."

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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