HOLLIDAYSBURG - The attorney for a man charged in the cocaine distribution case from a city bar is claiming that trying his client on those charges amounts to double jeopardy.
Thomas Hooper, who represents Damion Floyd, 34, of Baltimore, has petitioned the court to bar from prosecution the nine charges announced earlier this year against Floyd because he said they are based at least in part on charges brought after a Sept. 1, 2010, traffic stop.
Floyd is serving a four- to eight-year sentence for the traffic stop charges.
But prosecutors Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman and Assistant District Attorney Peter Weeks said the two cases have nothing to do with each other.
Altoona police detective Troy Johannides told Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle in a hearing last week that city and state police along with the Blair County Drug Task Force had heard that a "Benny" was a major drug distributor in the area four years ago, but it was just a name bandied about on the streets until late 2009 when "Benny" was identified as Floyd.
After police placed court-ordered wiretaps on cellphones used by alleged street dealers, Floyd was among those arrested in March in Operation Last Call. He was charged with nine offenses, including distribution of cocaine, participation in a corrupt organization, criminal use of a communication facility and dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity.
The charges, released by Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly on March 1, stated that Floyd and fellow Baltimore native Rodney Williams were bringing large amounts of cocaine into the Altoona area and distributing it through the Corner Bar and Grill, 1001 Eighth Ave.
Police arrested 14 individuals thought to be part of the drug ring, which, according to Kelly, was responsible for $2 million in sales during a one-year period.
Kelly also alleged that Floyd was helping to run the ring from state prison, where he was serving his sentence from the 2010 traffic stop.
In that stop, police found $9,000 and nearly a pound of cocaine in the car in which Floyd was a passenger.
That case was disposed of earlier this year when Bedford County Judge Thomas Ling sentenced Floyd to four to eight years.
Hooper is arguing that trying his client again on the same set of charges represents double jeopardy - trying a suspect twice for the same crime - which is unconstitutional.
Hooper has also filed a petition with Judge Barry Feudale, who is presiding over the statewide grand jury that investigated the Baltimore-to-Altoona drug ring, asking him to release transcripts of grand jury testimony to help him prepare Floyd's defense.
Normally grand jury transcripts are not available to the defense until after a witness has testified during a trial.
Doyle heard several hours of testimony in the case late Friday but said she couldn't make any decisions until the transcript question is answered.
Floyd's earlier arrest came during a routine stop by State Police Cpl. James Wagner from Bedford, who said he was patrolling Interstate 70 when he stopped the vehicle in which Floyd was riding.
State police narcotics investigators from Hollidaysburg were informed of the arrest as a matter of protocol, Wagner said.
Altoona police realized that Floyd was involved with the Corner Bar when they talked to a state police vice detective who mentioned the Floyd arrest.