Prosecutors at the trial of Carlos Lehder Rivas produced more than 100 witnesses over 22 weeks to show that he operated a multimillion-dollar smuggling business centered in the Bahamas.
While the prosecution tried to draw a noose around Lehder, it also presented evidence of the key role of the Bahamas island chain, and a federal grand jury reportedly is looking into the activities of Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling.Lehder, 38, is accused of conspiring to smuggle 3.3 tons of cocaine into the United States through his private island in the Bahamas, Norman's Cay, from 1978 to 1980.
The Colombian is charged with conspiracy, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, importation of cocaine and operation of a continuing criminal enterprise. His co-defendant, Jack Carlton Reed, 57, of San Pedro, Calif., is charged only with conspiracy.
The prosecution rested its case against the two Thursday. The defense is expected to begin Monday and to last at least two weeks.
"The issue in this case is not whether Mr. Lehder was a drug smuggler but whether Mr. Lehder as an individual committed the 11 crimes charged," Ed Shohat, one of Lehder's attorneys, said last week.
When the jury selection started in October, attorneys said they expected the trial to last from six weeks to three months. But, counting jury selection and a two-week Christmas recess, the trial has ended its 30th week.
"Carlos Lehder pursued a singular dream, a singular vision: to be the king of cocaine transportation," U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle said in his opening statement in mid-November. "He was to cocaine transportation what Henry Ford was to cars."
While in federal prison during the 1970s, Lehder began hatching his plans to form a cocaine-smuggling empire, prosecutors said.
The Colombian first began smuggling small amounts of the drug inside the lining of suitcases, using young women as couriers, according to testimony. The smuggling, witnesses testified, became bolder as time progressed.