Jury convicts Washington

Juneau man found guilty Thursday of distributing drugs to police informant

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2008

A jury found Aaron Washington guilty Thursday of distributing drugs from his apartment to a police informant.

The jury took two and a half hours to come to its unanimous decision of finding Washington, who authorities say was a major part of the Juneau drug trade, guilty of all four felony counts against him.

Washington will face sentencing after a larger trial in September, when he is expected be tried on charges that he and co-defendant Vonnie Williams ran a criminal enterprise that imported pounds of cocaine into Juneau since 2003.

Washington, 42, looked calm while Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg read the decision and later when a bailiff handcuffed him and escorted him out of court. He had no friends or family in the court when the verdict was read.

Much of Washington's trial focused on the testimony of Geralyn Sue Dougherty, 41, a police informant who told the jury that Washington had twice given her cocaine at his apartment in Douglas last spring. She also said she had twice smuggled drugs into Juneau as a drug mule on Washington's behalf.

During closing arguments, Washington's attorney William Carey told jurors that Dougherty was a liar and a habitual hard drug user whose memory of the alleged drug deals could not be trusted. He said all of the other state's evidence relied on what Dougherty said, including the secretly recorded tapes of Dougherty and Washington's conversations that are inaudible throughout much of the recording.

"Sue Dougherty's testimony is what supports this whole house of cards," Carey said. "And without her being credible, without her being believable the house of cards falls."

He suggested that the cocaine Dougherty handed over to police and said was Washington's might have been hers or a drug dealer's who was staying in a nearby apartment.

"The facts just don't hold up, and there's reasonable doubt all over the place," Carey said.

Juneau District Attorney Doug Gardner used his closing remarks to portray Washington as a "good businessman" who transferred the risks of his dangerous trade onto others like Dougherty.

"In any business, there are risks," Gardner said. "In the drug business, you're looking at one of the risks right here."

He acknowledged that Dougherty wasn't the ideal witness, but said she was what the police needed to gain access to Washington's underground world.

"You need someone with the right resume," Gardner said. "The people that have the right resume aren't always going to be the people that you see on TV that you might want to invite over to dinner."

He said the testimony of police officers who worked with Dougherty confirmed her story and proved the state's case beyond a reasonable doubt. At several points during his speech to the jury, Gardner held in front of the jury the cocaine and small bags Dougherty said Washington had given her.

"Do not get lost on red herrings," Gardner said. "C'mon, that's just a plain and simple drug deal."

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

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