By Joe Beck
A U.S. District Court jury convicted each of five defendants Thursday on most of 27 counts accusing them of participating in a major ring dealing crack cocaine in Winchester.
Nikki Williams, reported in court documents to have been guiding and supervising the other ring members, was convicted of conspiring to distribute or manufacture crack. The other defendants - Santonio Minus, Demario Coffie, Alphonso Britton and Antonio Williams -- were also found guilty of the conspiracy charge. Antonio Williams is the son of Nikki Williams.
The more than 20 remaining charges all involved the sale of crack.
The jury began its deliberations around 10 a.m. and returned the verdict at 9:30 p.m., according to Brian McGinn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office.
The verdict came after eight days of testimony from what prosecutors estimated to be more than 50 witnesses. Defense attorneys for each of the five defendants portrayed most of the government's witnesses as a parade of felons and drug addicts whose testimony was not to be trusted.
Roland Santos, representing Coffie, said the prosecution had lined up "every bad person in Winchester" to salvage a weak case with their testimony.
Prosecutors countered that few of the witnesses had any personal incentive to testify and some were downright fearful of reprisals from the defendants or those close to them. The prosecution also built much of its case on audio and video tape recordings made by informants during drug buys supervised by law enforcement agents.
Prosecutors said they had documented at least 2,700 grams of cocaine sold by the defendants in Winchester out of several residences from May 2009 to early this year. Authorities said the ring was conducting as many as 100 sales a day, usually involving single quantities of less than a gram, for much of the time it was in business.
Traffic at one house where they were selling became so frenzied that customers left a path in the snow, Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Hoffman told the jurors.
The outcome of the trial means that all eight defendants originally charged in the case have been convicted. The three not on trial - Kathy Wheeling, Sycarra Chinn and David Shiflett - pleaded guilty months ago and testified at the trial against the other defendants.
Chinn and Wheeling were convicted on the conspiracy charge and Shiflett pleaded guilty to maintaining residences at 1803 Henry Ave. and 400 N. Loudon St. as places used to sell and distribute crack. Court documents also state that Wheeling, identified as a crack user, allowed other members of the ring to "store, repackage and redistribute cocaine based in and around the property she was leasing at 122 Ward Ave. during this conspiracy."
The prosecution said Britton oversaw the supply of crack and its distribution to Minus, Coffie and Antonio Williams, who took it for resale to customers.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org