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Secretary Testifies that She Logged Call From Noriega’s Office

March 6, 1991

MIAMI (AP) _ The former secretary of a drug trafficker testified Tuesday that she logged a phone call from Manuel Noriega’s office to one of two men indicted with the deposed Panamanian leader on drug conspiracy charges.

On cross-examination, Sandra Ferro, former secretary of the late Cesar Rodriguez, appeared to contradict government documents showing she had been given immunity and cash for information.

Ms. Ferro’s testimony is the first directly linking defendant Brian Davidow, a Miami real estate broker, to Noriega. Also on trial is William Saldarriaga, a Colombian businessman. Noriega will be tried separately in June.

Rodriguez was one of the organizers in Panama of the guns-for-drugs voyage of the luxury yacht Krill in March 1986. He and another organizer, Ruben Paredes Jr., were murdered in Colombia the same month.

Ms. Ferro testified that she kept logs of every phone call and message through Rodriguez’s office in Panama City, and recalled seeing Davidow visit there several times. She rented an apartment for Davidow and took messages for him as well, she said.

On Dec. 17, 1985, Noriega’s secretary Marcella Tessone called for Davidow, Ms. Ferro said.

Ms. Tessone also called frequently with messages for Rodriguez to call or meet Noriega, she testified.

The testimony appeared to challenge defense assertions that Davidow did not know Noriega. But on cross-examination by defense attorney Richard Sharpstein, Ms. Ferro acknowledged that the message was to call Noriega’s secretary, not the general himself.

Sharpstein through questioning implied Davidow was dating Ms. Tessone, and had even bought dresses for her from Ms. Ferro.

The direct testimony also appeared to contradict defense contentions that Rodriguez and Noriega had become enemies after 1984, making their partnership in a drug deal unlikely.

Ms. Ferro on cross examination acknowledged that the calls from Noriega’s office to Rodriguez had stopped by sometime in 1984, rather than stretching to the March 1986 Krill voyage.

She flatly denied receiving immunity from the U.S. government for her testimony - even though lead prosecutor Patrick Sullivan had earlier told the court she did receive such a promise. Sullivan also said part of a $6,500 payment she received was for information, but Ms. Ferro denied that, too.

Colombian police seized the Krill at an island off the coast with 322 kilograms of cocaine aboard. Prosecutors say Noriega may have ordered Rodriguez and Paredes killed because he was shortchanged on the deal to trade a load of guns for Colombian cocaine.

Davidow, 29, and Saldarriaga, 44, face up to 40 years in prison if convicted of two drug conspiracy counts.

Davidow is free on bond. Saldarriaga and Noriega are in the Metropolitan Correctional Center outside Miami.

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