CLEARFIELD – A New York man accused of taking a small baggie of cocaine into the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in September of 2016 was found not guilty Tuesday in Clearfield County Court.
Louis Luyando, 42, of Bronx, N.Y., was found not guilty on all charges, including felony manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and contraband/controlled substance, plus misdemeanor intentional possession of a controlled substance.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth, and Luyando was represented by defense attorney Joshua Maines of Clearfield. President Judge Fredric Ammerman presided over the case.
The jury deliberated for about 27 minutes. After the verdicts were read by the foreperson at about 2:35 p.m., Luyando said aloud “thank you.” Maines gave his client a pat on the back, then they rose to embrace each other.
During the trial, a MVCC corrections officer testified that she was assigned to the visitation/front lobby area on the morning of Sept. 11, 2016. She said Luyando came through the security checkpoint and had to remove items from his person.
She said after his items were put through the x-ray machine, a search was done and she felt something in the band of his hat. Then, she said a small baggie of an unknown substance fell out and she notified her supervisor.
She said he responded to collect the seized item and summoned for the Clearfield-based state police to respond to further investigate the incident.
Under cross-examination by Maines, the CO said a visitor can enter the MVCC wearing a hat. However, she said a hat cannot be worn into a visitation with an inmate.
Trooper Jared Wolff, a state police criminal investigator, said upon arrival, he met with prison officials and took possession of the substance.
He testified that during an interview, Luyando said he went to the MVCC to visit a childhood friend, and he was as surprised as the CO when she found the baggie in his hat.
Wolff told jurors Luyando admitted that the baggie contained cocaine and that he’d put it in the band of his hat but then must have forgotten about it.
Wolff said the substance was sent to the State Police Crime Laboratory in Harrisburg for analysis, it tested positive for the presence of cocaine and it weighed .34 grams.
Under cross-examination, Maines asked if anyone else was charged in connection with this incident. Wolff said no and that further investigation wasn’t done to see if there was a conspiracy between Luyando and the inmate he was there to visit.
Luyando took the stand in his own defense, telling jurors he was a union maintenance worker who felt responsible for the care of his mother and sister.
He said on Sept. 11, 2016, he came to MVCC for the first time to visit a childhood friend. He said having visited friends in other prisons in New York, he was familiar with common visitation rules and spent time in the parking lot emptying his pockets of personal items he couldn’t take inside.
Luyando said though he knew he wouldn’t be able to wear his hat into the visitation room, he still wore it inside because after the security checkpoint, he assumed he could give it to someone or secure it somewhere.
He said “obviously,” he wouldn’t conceal a baggie of cocaine in his hat, knowing he would have to put it through security. He said he was out at the club a couple weeks prior, a friend gave him the cocaine and though he didn’t really want it, he put it in his hat.
“I was drunk [that night] … and completely forgot about it,” he testified. “It was the biggest mistake of my life, and it’s cost me a lot.”
Luyando said there was “no way” he would have knowingly taken the cocaine into the prison because he is well aware of the consequences. “I don’t want to have a felony on my record.”
Under cross-examination, Shaw asked Luyando if he was aware of prison security, the rules in place and that he wouldn’t be able to wear his hat in the visitation room anyways, why he didn’t just take it off and leave it in the car. Luyando answered, “I don’t know.”
During his closing arguments, Maines asked the jury to find Luyando not guilty of “every charge.” He said from the beginning, his client has told the truth and been cooperative.
“He said a lot of uncomfortable things [on the witness stand] that didn’t sound too good. That’s because it’s the truth,” Maines argued.
He said the commonwealth wanted jurors to believe that Luyando intended to deliver the cocaine to his friend, an inmate at the facility. However, he said this inmate was never questioned and evidence wasn’t presented to support this theory.
“It’s in your hands now. He’s a guy who has no long drug history and he works for a living. He has everything to lose.”
Shaw said Luyando was on the “hunt” for some sympathy from one juror. He told them not to buy into it, arguing: “this isn’t forgetting a $5 bill in your pants pocket before you put them in the wash, this is cocaine being taken into a prison.”