CLEARFIELD – The four-day trial got under way Tuesday for a 64-year-old Bronx, NY man, Luther L. Ware Jr., who has been accused of bringing crack cocaine from New York and distributing it in the Clearfield area.
Ware has been charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance; delivery of a controlled substance; criminal use of a communications facility; dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities; conspiracy; and corrupt organizations.
The charges against Ware stem from a drug bust that occurred at his apartment on Turnpike Avenue in Clearfield on Oct. 9, 2014. Prior to the drug bust, a confidential informant allegedly purchased $100 worth of crack cocaine from Ware. When agents obtained and executed a search warrant, they allegedly seized crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana from Ware’s apartment.
Senior Deputy Attorney General David Gorman is presenting the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Ware is being represented by defense attorney Jeff DuBois. Clearfield County President Judge Fredric Ammerman is presiding over the case, which is scheduled through Friday.
During his opening statements, Gorman told members of the jury that this case was about the “power of drugs.” Further, he said it was about “those like Ware,” who sell and distribute drugs and who have power over people addicted to drugs, such as the witnesses in this case.
Gorman said undercover narcotics agents used witnesses who were addicts themselves to “work their way up the ladder” to determine that Ware was a source for crack cocaine in the Clearfield area. He said on Oct. 9, 2014, agents learned Ware would return to Clearfield from New York with a large supply of drugs.
He said agents were able to use a CI to arrange a successful controlled buy of crack cocaine from Ware before executing a search warrant on his apartment. He told jurors “all of the evidence” would point to Ware as the head of this drug organization, and there wouldn’t be any reasonable doubt.
In his opening, DuBois argued that in this case “things aren’t as they appear.” He said the commonwealth planned to present “a mountain of evidence;” however, he urged jurors to sift through “all of the bubble wrap and wrapping paper” in order to realize Ware didn’t do these things.
DuBois said the commonwealth’s witnesses were not drug addicts because of Ware. He said they were drug addicts long before and long after meeting Ware. “The evidence [against Ware] is not there,” he said.
During the first day of trial, members of the jury heard testimony from two undercover narcotics agents who were involved with the investigation.
According to the first agent, they started their investigation of Ware in early 2013. The agent said they’d received information from many individuals that Ware was distributing large amounts of crack cocaine in the Clearfield area.
The agent explained these individuals who came forward with information were drug addicts themselves and some with criminal records. The agents said through surveillance measures, they verified information that was provided to them, and it helped them determine individual credibility.
The agent said drug distributors, such as Ware, typically don’t like to meet new people. Instead the agent said they prefer to deal with people who they can control. Over the course of their investigation, the agent said they were able to develop several CIs who related that Ware was a source for crack cocaine.
When he first arrived in Clearfield, the agent said Ware stayed in hotels. He moved from hotel to hotel if he sensed it was “hot” or under police surveillance. The agent said Ware started staying at residences of local drug addicts and then moved into his Turnpike Avenue apartment.
On Oct. 8, 2014, the agent said they had received information that Ware would return to Clearfield from New York with a supply of drugs. He said a CI who had testified before a grand jury arranged for agents to speak to one of Ware’s local distributors who had contact with Ware.
The next day, the agent said they established Ware’s local distributor as a credible source of information and approved them as a CI. The agent said they decided to use the CI to make a controlled buy of one gram of crack cocaine from Ware for $100 at Ware’s Turnpike Avenue apartment.
According to the agent, the CI made contact with Ware, and they initially expected him to arrive with crack cocaine in Clearfield around 6 p.m. Oct. 9, 2014. The agent said they started to prepare an anticipatory search warrant, as they expected to make a successful controlled buy with the CI.
The agent said the search warrant was approved by Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler. The agent noted it was sealed so that Ware wouldn’t receive a copy of the affidavit in order to protect the identity of the CI and anyone who he may have suspected to cooperate with law enforcement.
Upon receiving approval for the search warrant, the agent notified another who remained with the CI and who developed plans for the controlled buy and search warrant execution at Ware’s apartment.
At 7 p.m. Oct. 9, 2014, the second agent testified to having the CI contact Ware, who hadn’t yet arrived in Clearfield. The agent said they wanted to know exactly when Ware would be in the area in order to immediately execute the controlled buy and search warrant.
When the CI had contact with Ware, the agent said they learned he was in Lock Haven and would be in Clearfield in about 40 minutes to an hour. The agent said they were confident the controlled buy would happen and began to finalize plans and arrange for drug task force officers to provide surveillance.
The next time they had contact with Ware, the agent said he was at Long John Silvers and would be at his Turnpike Avenue apartment shortly. The agent said they provided the CI with $100 to purchase crack cocaine from Ware and were notified by a surveillance officer that Ware had arrived at his apartment.
At Ware’s apartment, the agent said the CI and Ware went inside. When the controlled buy was complete, the agent said the CI turned over the crack cocaine immediately upon re-entering their vehicle. The agent said they notified the first agent that the controlled buy was completed, and they’d met the criteria of their search warrant.
In testimony the first agent said before the controlled buy on Oct. 9, 2014, they’d received information from the CI that Ware would return to Clearfield with a kilogram, or 2.2 pounds of crack cocaine. During the search of Ware’s apartment, the agent said they seized substantially less crack cocaine, or approximately 18 grams; however, they also found other drugs.
The agent said they found bundles of heroin on the kitchen table, crack cocaine outside the living room window and amounts of crack cocaine and marijuana that were thrown out the kitchen window.
The agent said they also found a ledger, which detailed how much Ware had to sell “soft” and “hard” cocaine and “buns” of heroin for in order to make a profit. The agent said they also located packaging materials during their search of Ware’s apartment.
The agent said they were expecting to only find crack cocaine. However, the agent said there’s a market for heroin in Clearfield, and larger distributors usually have more than one drug in order to satisfy customers.
Under cross examination, DuBois pointed out that agents didn’t find any drugs on Ware prior to October of 2014. However, he said that the agents had other “hits,” such as Manuj “Glenn” McCoon, Shaking Saunders, Edward Allen, David Batista and LaShanda Mount.
DuBois called attention to the fact that Saunders, Allen, Batista and Mount were found with much more crack cocaine, 38.62 grams, and more than $7,000 in cash during a traffic stop Feb. 23, 2014. He also said that McCoon was found with 81 bags of crack cocaine and $2,000 in cash during a traffic stop in November of 2013.
DuBois argued that Ware shared his apartment with another New York man. When asked, the agent confirmed that they had two successful controlled buys from Ware’s roommate at Ware’s apartment in September of 2014. DuBois pointed out that Ware refused to sell crack cocaine to one of the agents’ CIs on Aug. 27, 2014.
Later, Gorman pointed out that McCoon had been arrested in November of 2013. He said Saunders, Allen, Batista and Mount had all been arrested in February of 2014.
Gorman said Ware’s roommate wasn’t present Oct. 9, 2014 when the CI made the controlled buy, which was followed by a search.
When asked by Gorman, the agent said Ware was found with approximately $6,500 worth of unsold crack cocaine and heroin after the search at his apartment.