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Accused Drug Kingpin Trial Begins

April 22, 2002

MIAMI (AP) _ A reputed drug kingpin accused of ordering hits on three witnesses and bribing a juror will face an anonymous jury after one candidate reported a threatening phone call.

Jury selection in the trial of Sal Magluta was set to begin Monday with 65 people whose names will not be given to either side.

Magluta was acquitted on drug charges in 1996 but is charged with paying a $500,000 bribe to his jury foreman and hiring a Colombian hit team to kill the witnesses.

A jury candidate’s husband reported receiving a threatening call on their unlisted home phone last week, prompting U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz to throw out questionnaires sent to more than 1,000 prospective jurors.

Magluta, 47, faces a possible life sentence if convicted in the shooting deaths of the witnesses, jury tampering and spending millions of dollars in drug money after it was frozen by court order.

Prosecution witnesses are expected to include a mistress who has translated a coded ledger book in other trials and a pair of brother assassins who admit roles in the killings.

Magluta and partner Willy Falcon reputedly made $2 billion running drugs through Miami in the 1980s. Falcon is also facing charges of jury tampering and spending money frozen by court order.

After their acquittal, prosecutors brought relatively minor charges against the men. Falcon was sentenced to 10 years on gun charges. Magluta skipped town in 1997 during a passport fraud trial and was caught wearing a wig during a traffic stop. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for jumping bond and passport fraud.

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