Four men were convicted and 16 others were acquitted Monday on charges stemming from a marijuana smuggling operation allegedly linked to deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.
The verdict came on the fifth day of deliberations after a 2 1/2-month trial in which prosecutors outlined a smuggling operation that allegedly smuggled 48,000 pounds of marijuana into North Carolina and 280,000 pounds into Louisiana in 1983.The same operation was to have smuggled 1 million pounds into Missouri in 1984, prosecutors said, but that plan was foiled with the arrest of Stephen Michael Kalish, the alleged ringleader who became a key prosecution witness.
After the verdicts were read, members of the prosecution team were subdued, in sharp contrast to the broad smiles and jubilation from those acquitted.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Lombardino refused to comment, saying another related trial is coming up. That trial, involving 25 other defendants, is set to begin Feb. 12.