IGWEBUIKE ACQUITTED OF DRUG SMUGGLING

Published: Monday, April 15 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

Minnesota Vikings kicker Donald Igwebuike was acquitted today of masterminding a failed effort to smuggle more than $1 million worth of heroin from his native Nigeria to the United States.

Igwebuike, 32, threw both fists in the air, and broke into tears, hugging his attorney as the verdict was announced.He could have faced up to 120 years in a federal prison and $6 million in fines if convicted of conspiracy and drug importation.

The verdict followed a two-week trial that focused on the relationship between Igwebuike and two Nigerian friends who pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

Igwebuike maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and his attorneys argued the two men were only trying to implicate him in hopes of obtaining a reduced sentence.

"I have never been involved in any heroin deal," Igwebuike testified during the trial, "and I would never ask someone else to participate in something like that."

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