Sept. 29, 2003- Two former Narcotics Strike Force agents were found innocent of all charges Monday afternoon as their two-week-long trial in District Court on St. Thomas came to an end. After three days of deliberations, the jury acquitted George Osborne, 42, and Jay Watson, 41, of numerous charges including racketeering, drug conspiracy and extortion.
Both were alleged to have seized or extorted money and drugs from suspected drug dealers while working as NSF agents on St. Croix. The strike force is the V.I. government's drug fighting arm and functions within the Office of the Governor.
When the jury foreman delivered the not guilty verdicts shortly after 3 p.m., family members cheered as the defendants embraced their attorneys. As they exited the courtroom, defense lawyers said the verdict signaled the failure of a plot to frame the two agents by a rival agent, Achille Tyson. Last year, Tyson and Esbond De Grasse, 42, entered guilty pleas to narcotics and racketeering offenses after being arrested as a result of the same investigation that led to the charges against Osborne and Watson.
During this month's trial before a sequestered jury, federal prosecutors alleged that Osborne on several occasions in recent years had financed the movement of cocaine from Antigua to St. Croix for its resale in the territory. The prosecution also alleged that Osborne had represented a quantity of sugar as heroin and had sold fake drugs in Puerto Rico for $85,000.
And they alleged that Osborne and Watson impounded a vehicle from a suspected drug dealer but later split $10,000 in cash in exchange for securing the release of the vehicle.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Azekah Jennings declined to comment Monday on the jury's deliberations or the verdict.
The trial on St. Thomas was the second for Osborne and Watson. District Judge Thomas K. Moore, who presided over both trials, declared a mistrial in the first, held on St. Croix, after a man made threatening gestures toward the jury during those proceedings. (See "Man indicted for throat-slashing sign at trial".)
Osborne and Watson were indicted by a federal grand jury last September based on testimony from federal drug agents who investigated the Narcotics Strike Force. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has conducted several investigations of the strike force since the mid-1990s.
Sentencing dates have yet to be set for former agents De Grasse and Tyson.
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