Lehder The Henry Ford of Cocaine, Prosecutor Says
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A prosecutor today likened accused drug kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas to Henry Ford, calling Lehder the ″pioneer of the mass transportation of cocaine″ as final arguments began in the 23-week cocaine-smuggling trial.
Lehder, who prosecutors called a key member of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel, is charged with bringing 3.3 tons of cocaine from the Bahamas into the United States from 1978 to 1980.
U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle referred to TV interviews of Lehder played during the trial, telling jurors to take the defendant at his word.
″He told you cocaine has become a revolutionary weapon to destroy the (U.S.) empire,″ said Merkle. ″The end justifies the means.″
″Carlos Lehder and Henry Ford had a lot in common,″ said Merkle. ″Carlos Lehder was the pioneer of the mass transporation of cocaine for the American consumer.″
Merkle was expected to take all day with his closing arguments. Defense attorneys were expected to close Wednesday.
Over prosecution objections Monday, U.S. District Judge Howell W. Melton said he would allow Lehder defense attorneys Edward R. Shohat and Jose Quinon to share their closing arguments.
They will be followed by arguments by Stephen Weinbaum, attorney for co- defendant Jack Carlton Reed, and Merkle has asked for three hours to rebut defense arguments.
The case tentatively is scheduled to go to the jury Friday.
A motion to delay closing arguments until next week was denied. Quinon cited widespread local participation in ″Say No To Drugs Week″ in asking for the delay.
A total of 115 government witnesses have depicted Lehder as a flamboyant, womanizing neo-Nazi who used money and force to build a cocaine-smuggling kingdom on the Bahamian island of Norman’s Cay. It was from that tiny island that Lehder used pilots to fly cocaine into the United States, the government claims.
Lehder’s attorneys rested his case without calling a single defense witness.
If convicted, Lehder, 38, faces up to life plus 165 years in prison and the forfeiture of his assets in the Bahamas to the U.S. government.
Reed, 57, of San Pedro, Calif., is charged with being a member of the smuggling conspiracy. He faces up to 15 years in prison.