Jury Deliberates Tony Martin Case
Aug. 25, 1999
MIAMI (AP) _ Now it's up to 12 jurors to decide whether Tony Martin goes to practice or to jail.
Deliberations resumed this morning in the federal trial against the Miami Dolphins receiver, charged with laundering drug profits for a friend prosecutors say was a local narcotics kingpin.
The panel of eight women and four men discussed the case, now in its fourth week, for nearly six hours Tuesday before adjourning. They went back into the jury room Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Martin is being tried with Rickey Brownlee, who served seven years in prison for two 1980s drug convictions, in a case largely focusing on Brownlee's alleged narcotics activities from 1994 to 1997.
The Pro Bowl receiver is charged with four counts of laundering drug profits and one of conspiracy to hide drug money. He faces a prison term of three to five years if convicted.
Martin spent much of the afternoon glumly sitting on a bench outside the courtroom, accompanied by his parents and girlfriend. He complied with a prosecution request not to speak to reporters.
Several friends of both defendants also camped out on chairs in the second-floor waiting area.
Jurors received the case after hearing closing statements from Martin's lead attorney, Howard Srebnick, and rebuttal from prosecutors.
Martin, 33, is accused of leasing three cars in his name on behalf of Brownlee, who paid him back with cash. He also is accused of taking $100,000 in cash to reimburse a check written to Brownlee's first lawyer, though he later stopped payment on the check and returned the money.
At issue is whether Martin, who has known Brownlee since childhood and calls him his uncle, knowingly accepted drug money.
Srebnick recounted Martin's inner-city upbringing in Miami, saying Brownlee was somebody who helped the youngster pursue his dream of playing professional football.
So when Brownlee needed a car and had no credit after his release from prison in 1993, the lawyer said, Martin was willing to help out the man who once helped him. Martin listed Brownlee as an alternate driver on lease documents.
``From Day 1, Tony Martin disclosed that Rickey Brownlee might be sharing this car,'' Srebnick said. ``Is there anything wrong with that?''
Srebnick also pointed out Brownlee went on to manage two restaurants that took in some $1.6 million over 2 1/2 years, according to ledgers offered as evidence by the defense.
Those Opa-locka restaurants now are closed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron DeWaard noted in his rebuttal statement.
``When the drug proceeds dried up _ when the drug trafficker was gone _ it no longer functioned,'' he said.
DeWaard dismissed claims that Brownlee was destitute, recalling a report compiled by IRS agents showing Brownlee amassed some $1.3 million in unexplained wealth before he was arrested.
The list included 15 cars and eight real-estate purchases among nearly three dozen big-ticket acquisitions Brownlee made beginning in 1994.
``You didn't hear about Rickey Brownlee having credit problems. You heard how he was buying everything,'' DeWaard said. ``But the nicest car Rickey Brownlee had was always in Tony Martin's name.''