Testimony Wraps Up in Drug Trial

CLEARFIELD – It took the full scheduled seven days for testminony to wrap up in a trial involving three men accused of running a cocaine distribution ring.

Michael Styers, 55, of Mercer; Charles Gearhart, 41, of Woodland; and Maharaji “Bean” Hemingway, 36, of Philadelphia, who are accused of operating a massive cocaine ring in Clearfield County.

Styers is charged with 14 counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy; criminal use of communication facility; two counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity; two counts of corrupt organizations;  persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms; burglary; theft by unlawful taking or disposition; criminal attempt; criminal trespass; and racketeering.

Gearhart is charged with 14 counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy; criminal use of communication facility; dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity; two counts of corrupt organizations; and racketeering.

Hemingway is charged with six counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; criminal conspiracy; criminal use of communication facility; dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity; two counts of corrupt organizations; racketeering; and false imprisonment.

The defendants’ charges resulted from an investigation into a drug trafficking organization operated by Styers, who allegedly traveled to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Wilkes Barre and obtained cocaine to resale to customers in Clearfield. Styers’ operation allegedly imported more than 20 kilograms of cocaine into Clearfield beginning in 2004 and also generated millions of dollars in profits, according to a press release from the state’s attorney general’s office in 2008.

Tuesday saw Agent Dave Jordan testify twice. The first time he testified, he read Gearhart’s redacted Grand Jury testimony. In the testimony, Gearhart tells the panel that he lives in Woodland. He told the GJ he was getting cocaine everyday, using grams at a time. He also identified the names of other people who bought from him. He also reportedly told the GJ about trips he took to Philadelphia, where they would purchase 9 grams of cocaine at a time. He said they were paying about $1,700-$1,800 per ounce.

He also reportedly told the GJ about the Mann Road Incident, in which he, his wife Danielle Gearhart, and Jodi and Rick Wilkinson were pulled over/arrested. Gearhart reportedly claimed possession of the 8-9 ounces of cocaine police found in the vehicle.

He told the GJ that someone told him his house was going to be raided. He said he was going to hide the drugs. He also told the GJ that he and the Wilkinson’s were going to use it.

When Jordan was done, he was questioned by prosecutor David Gorman, who asked if Gearhart was under oath. Jordan said he was. Jordan also said he confronted Gearhart prior to his GJ testimony because he didn’t believe his prior statements. He said he never suggested answers to Gearhart. He also said that Gearhart never denied the drugs found in the car were his.

Jordan was later called as a defense witness. He was questioned by Styers’ attorney Benjamin Vrobal as to Rick Wilkinson’s bank records. Jordan said he served a subpoena and got access to the subject’s bank accounts. He was asked about a tax statement regarding amounts withdrawn from Rick Wilkinson’s investment account. In 2005 $7,000 was removed and in 2006 $203,592.86 was removed.

Also called to testify was Brandon Kifer. Defense attorney Lance Marshall questioned him about the amount he purchased in Philadelphia. He said a half-ounce. Marshall said on Friday, Kifer said he purchased an ounce, then Monday said a half-ounce. Under cross, Kifer testified he purchased the cocaine from Hemingway/Bean.

Also called to testify was Clearfield County Jail Warden Sam Lombardo. He testified that Kifer and Hemingway shared a cell, and that it never came up one might testify against the other. He also indicated there were no issues between the two.

The rest of the day was taken up by closing statements. Marshall called into question the character of the witnesses the commonwealth used.

“Are they telling you the truth,” asked Marshall. “Or would any black man serve their cause?”

Marshall indicated the commonwealth told the witnesses that Hemingway was Bean and Hodge, two names that popped up during witness testmony. All but a few witnesses who “knew” Bean or Hodge were able to identify Hemingway in the courtroom.

“They are all thieves,” said Marshall. He added they would say anything to get themselves out of trouble.

Marshall also pointed out that the drugs may have come from Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

Gearhart’s attorney, Gary Knaresboro, said the jury heard a lot of heresay evidence, and no direct evidence of an organization. He also pointed out that the commonwealth’s witnesses were more concerned about themselves. He, like Marshall, also indicated that Richard Smeal was a bigger player than what was let on. Knaresboro also alleged that Gearhart’s wife, Danielle Gearhart, was far more involved than she let on. He also stated that Rick Wilkinson was a bigger player than he let on.

Vroman said not one piece of evidence links Styers to a crime. He said there was no physical evidence.

“Not one single controlled buy.”

Vroman said there were a lot of people just pointing fingers. He also pointed to the Attorney General’s office and the time the case was announced to the public. He indicated the press conference came days before the 2008 election. He said the investigation was years in the workings. He said investigators searched Styers’ home and found nothing.

“With all their resources, all they could come up with were these 25 degenerates,” said Vroman, indicating the witnesses.

Gorman closed out the session, stating the case was historical in nature, and that the jury could convict on it.

“These witnesses, I call them damaged goods,” said Gorman. He added they were the goods produced by Styers, delivered by Gearhart, and supplied by Hemingway.

Gorman referenced a point that Marshall and Vroman touched on, during two different periods where Hemingway was incarcerated. Gorman pointed out that when Hemingway was incarcerated and he didn’t have a cocaine supplier, Styers took to robbing local drug stores. Gorman stated that ultimately, the path led to Hemingway.

Gorman also pointed out that Gearhart, in regard to the Mann Road Incident, admitted to possessing the 8-9 ounces of cocaine found in the car.

All that is left now is for the charging of the jury and for the jury to deliberate. That will take place today, beginning at 9 a.m.

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