Jury picked for ‘Last Call’ trial

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The Baltimore man who allegedly was the source of the cocaine in the Operation Last Call drug investigation will go on trial in two weeks, according to Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron.

Milliron spent Monday morning presiding over jury selection for the trial of Rodney “Rocco” Williams, 37, a Baltimore resident, who investigators have testified was the person supplying the cocaine that was then transported to Altoona.

Williams is charged as a major participant in a drug organization that distributed cocaine from the Corner Bar and Grille, 1001 Eighth Ave., in 2010 and 2011.

Jury selection lasted about three hours Monday.

Centre County defense attorney Philip M. Masorti outlined Williams’ situation: He is African-American; he is associated with the Corner Bar and Grille which is located “downtown [Altoona]”; and he is from Baltimore.

Based on those specifics, Masorti wanted to know if prospective jurors would take the position that “where there is smoke, there is fire.”

None of the jurors called for the panel indicated that any one of those facts would cause them to lean toward conviction, despite the testimony.

On the other side of the courtroom, Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman said the prosecution will ask the jury to find Williams guilty of conspiracy and participation in a corrupt organization, even though he was not living in Altoona where kilograms of cocaine were distributed.

Gorman explained to the jury panel that a conspiracy does not require a formal or written agreement among individuals. It only requires that the prosecution prove the group of individuals worked together to transport the cocaine from Baltimore for distribution in Altoona.

He said under the law a person who is part of a conspiracy is responsible for the acts of others in the conspiracy.

Williams is being represented by Masorti and Blair County attorney Robert S. Donaldson.

Gorman and Blair County Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks will present the case to the jurors beginning May 6.

The attorneys selected nine women and three men for the main panel. They also selected four female and two male alternates.

According to Milliron the Williams trial is expected to last two weeks, but the judge also promised he will do what he can to expedite the case.

He joked with jurors, stating, “The trial will not be as long as Mr. Gorman thinks.”

In a recent Operation Last Call drug case against Kenneth Piner Sr., 52, Milliron pushed both sides to expedite the case. That trial included 10 days of testimony and a day to deliberate the charges against Piner, finding him guilty of 28 drug-related offenses.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.