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Witnesses fail to link former football player and drugs

October 22, 1997

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) _ Twelve prosecution witnesses called to testify in the drug conspiracy trial of a former St. Louis Rams player failed to connect the defendant to drugs.

James Harris’ attorney said no connection was made because Harris planned to buy a Porsche, not drugs, with the $52,000 seized by police. The money was seized from an alleged drug dealer who had driven off in a car in which Harris had stashed the money.

Harris, 29, went on trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court on charges that he was the money man for a cocaine ring headed by Anthony Washington. During opening statements in the case Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Massey said Harris’ money was seized March 19 from Washington, who planned to use the money to buy cocaine.

Police had been watching Washington and had taped a conversation in which Washington told an underling he was trying to raise money to buy and then peddle cocaine, Massey said. The underling, Dwight Flowers, already has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

But defense attorney Ron Norwood told jurors Harris intended to use the money to buy and customize a Porsche 911 owned by New Jersey Nets basketball player Kevin Edwards.

Norwood said Harris learned about the Porsche from his high school friend Washington. A Belleville garage, which was not named, had offered to help Edwards find a buyer for the car, Norwood said. At the time, Harris was at the peak of his career and had signed a three-year, $2.9 million contract to play football for the St. Louis Rams. He has since been released from the team.

Most of the testimony from police, chemists and drug dealers Tuesday concerned the alleged drug dealings of Washington, 29; Andre Hogan, 25, of Fairview Heights; and Stanford Riley Jr., 26, of East St. Louis. They will be tried separately Nov. 18.

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