Williams drug trial testimony concludes

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A narcotics detective assigned to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said Thursday that Rodney “Rocco” Williams of Baltimore was a “middle man” in the drug world, someone who knows where to obtain large amounts of illegal drugs.

Detective George Vigue testified on the fourth day of Williams’ trial that the 37-year-old Williams was not a day-to-day drug dealer in Baltimore in the latter part of 2011. He said because of Williams’ connections, he was able to obtain substantial amounts of cocaine for an Altoona drug ring operating out of the Corner Bar and Grille in Altoona.

He said that from “time-to-time” people like Williams engage in drug trafficking, even though they have jobs and families and appear to be leading normal lives.

Williams was among those arrested as part of the yearlong Operation Last Call drug investigation into a group that dealt exclusively in cocaine from the Corner Bar.

The trial before Judge Daniel J. Milliron focuses on summer and fall 2011, when the alleged leader of the group, Damion “Benny” Floyd of Baltimore, was sent to prison after being arrested the year before for transporting a pound of cocaine.

Prosecutors have charged that Floyd put in place a management team, including Jermaine Samuel, Natasha Miller and Williams, so he could continue his drug operation while behind bars.

Agents for the Pennsylvania Attorney General and officers of the Altoona Police Department had been tracking the flow of cocaine from Baltimore to Altoona for months, using hundreds of recorded phone conversations to piece together the operation of the drug ring. The suspects spoke in code, making it a challenge to interpret what they were talking about.

Albert Adams, an agent for the Pennsylvania Attorney General, testified that police listened to conversations between Samuel and Miller, as well as Shonda Hicks and Williams, and knew that Hicks was being sent to Baltimore on Nov. 3, 2011, to bring back cocaine.

In a conversation on Oct. 31, 2011, Samuel asked Williams what he was doing.

Williams said, “I just been chillin’.” He said he was “waiting for Monday night.” Samuel then asked him if he “went to the puffy joint down by the stadium.”

Masorti maintained throughout the four-day trial that officers mistook trash talk, slang and idle banter on the phone for drug talk, and Masorti used the conversation of Oct. 31 to make his point.

He insisted that Samuel and Williams weren’t discussing Williams’ intent to pick up cocaine from a Baltimore source but instead were talking about the Monday night football game.

Adams testified he wasn’t sure what the talk about the “puffy joint” meant, but Masorti contended it referred to a Puff Daddy homecoming concert.

Adams stuck by his interpretation and noted that at the end of the conversation Samuel said to Williams he “just wanted to know when he could put her on the road.” Adams said he believed that meant Samuel wanted to know when to send Hicks to Baltimore.

Prosecution attorney, Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman, in response to the defense challenge to Adams’ interpretation pointed out that because of the telephone calls, police were able to follow Hicks on Nov. 4 to Williams’ home and to arrest Hicks later carrying a large amount of cocaine.

Masorti asked Milliron to read to the jury a stipulation that Monday Night Football on Oct. 31, 2011, featured Kansas City and San Diego and that on Oct. 21, 2011, Sean Combs, also known as Puff Daddy, held a homecoming concert at the Stadium Club located near Howard University in Baltimore.

The prosecution and defense rested their cases Thursday afternoon, and Milliron said closing arguments would be held this morning with the case going to the jury about noon.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.