Offer to accused drug dealer withdrawn

Co-defendant wants new lawyer in alleged cocaine ring case

Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The lawyer of alleged drug smuggling ringleader Aaron Washington said in court Monday that his client was ready to take a state's deal and plead guilty to drug dealing charges.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

But it may be too late.

William Carey, who was on the phone from Petersburg during the hearing in Juneau Superior Court, said he needed to meet with Washington and go over the details of the state's offer. Carey said he received the state's deal in writing Friday, the original deadline set for such a deal.

"I anticipated being able to at least discuss ... all of the details (with Washington)," Carey said. "Sometimes the devil is in the details."

Carey added that he anticipated Washington would accept the state's deal and plead guilty during a Wednesday court hearing.

But Juneau District Attorney Doug Gardner said time was up and the deal was off the table because he needed to know immediately if the agreement was accepted.

"I understand it may appear arbitrary, but I need to know it now. I didn't hear a yes, I heard a maybe," Gardner said. "After extended discussions, I'm withdrawing the offer. ... I'm not going to continue to just leave an offer hanging for people to think about."

In response, Carey told Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, who also was appearing by phone, "I'm biting my tongue right now, your honor, because I think there isn't much consideration being given by the district attorney to the practicalities of transmitting all details of an offer to someone who is in Lemon Creek."

Washington is being housed at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center awaiting his Sept. 15 trial. He was found guilty last month on separate drug dealing charges.

Washington and co-defendant Vonnie Williams are accused of operating a cocaine smuggling ring that used women as drug mules to transport cocaine into Juneau from the Lower 48.

Also during Monday's court hearing, Williams told Collins that he needed a new lawyer.

Williams, who pleaded guilty in May to stealing checks and drug possession, said he needed to speak privately with the judge about why he didn't want Thomas Schulz, his appointed attorney, to represent him.

"Right now, me and my attorney have a difference in opinion, and there's no way we can work together at this point," said Williams, who also is being held at Lemon Creek.

Schulz, who also was appearing by phone, said he and Williams met last week to talk about the upcoming trial, and the discussion erupted into a "shouting match."

Last week, Schulz filed papers with the court saying he and Williams "have reached a significant disagreement over how this case should proceed, and he does not appear willing to follow my advice or offer assistance in preparing his defense."

He added that he "told Mr. Williams I do not believe that I have any grounds on which to base a motion to withdraw."

Schulz said their disagreements had nothing to do with any deals offered by the state.

Collins said she wasn't going to appoint Williams a new attorney just because they disagreed on future trial strategy. She said Williams needed to explain to Schulz why he didn't want the lawyer's representation before any future potential action could be taken.

"As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Williams remains on the trial calendar for Sept. 15," Collins said. "So does Mr. Washington at this point, unless things change on Wednesday."

As he was being led out of the courtroom Monday, Washington said, "The state isn't being fair."

• Contact reporter Alan Sudermanat 523-2268 or e-mail alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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