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Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsRetrial Underway for Accused Drug Smuggler

Retrial Underway for Accused Drug Smuggler

The remaining defendant in a December 2021 drug smuggling case faces retrial this week in District Court. (Source file photo)

A federal retrial is underway in District Court on St. Thomas for an alleged drug smuggler accused of hauling in 210 kilograms of cocaine from Vessup Bay in December 2021. Defendant Russell Robinson was one of two defendants charged with drug trafficking.

Monday marked the first day of Robinson’s second trial. Jury selection and opening arguments came three days after Chief District Judge Robert Molloy rejected the defendant’s latest in a series of legal maneuvers intended to derail his prosecution.

His arrest and that of a second man came at the end of a high-speed chase by federal law enforcers from east St. Thomas to Hull Bay. With a helicopter tracking their every move, the pair sped down a dead-end road on the Northside and were seen throwing parcels over the side of a pickup truck they were driving, according to court records.

Both were captured at a police roadblock set up at the head of the road when they turned around and continued their bid to evade authorities.

Both Robinson and codefendant Trevor Stephen were put on trial before Molloy in June 2023. In that proceeding, the court granted Robinson’s request to act as his own lawyer with assistance from his court-appointed counsel.

That move led to a situation that put the two co-defendants at odds; Robinson could question Stephen on the witness stand. Stephen then refused to put on a defense, refused to speak in court, but agreed to continue with the trial.

A federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Stephen. Robinson was granted a mistrial.

Ever since that declaration by the court on June 15, 2023, the remaining defendant has filed a number of motions citing reasons why his case should be dismissed. In the final motion, the defendant said the case should be dismissed because he was denied a speedy trial.

On March 8, Molloy addressed the entire string of motions in a Memorandum and Opinion. “While there may be significant delay since the Court ordered a mistrial in this case, the delay was a product of Robinson’s own doing. As this Memorandum and Opinion demonstrates, Robinson has continually filed pretrial motions since the Court ordered the mistrial. Indeed, the most significant delay resulted from Robinson’s request for a pretrial evidentiary hearing regarding his double jeopardy claims,” Molloy said.

With that, the judge struck down the denial of speedy trial motion and ordered jury selection to begin on March 11.

If found guilty, Robinson faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

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