Five men charged with running a worldwide drug ring were convicted in federal court in Alexandria yesterday of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute what U.S. prosecutors described as "multi-ton quantities" of marijuana and hashish.
But one of the five, Donald D. Haynie, accused by prosecutors of being the ring's "kingpin," was acquitted of the government's main charge against him -- running a "continuous criminal enterprise" of drug-related offenses.
Haynie, of Nashville, who could have received a life sentence on that charge, was convicted on five other drug counts of conspiring to import Asian hashish and possess with intent to distribute both hashish and marijuana.
Although Haynie could be sentenced to as much as 25 years in prison and fines totaling $100,000 on those charges, as soon as the jury's verdict was read he turned, smiling, to his attorney, Michael Kennedy of New York, grabbed his hand and patted him on the back.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Williams told the jurors earlier this week that if they convicted Haynie of only the single charge of engineering the drug conspiracy, and acquitted the other defendants, the government would consider its case "successful."
Convicted of conspiracy along with Haynie were Jean A. Morrissette of Gainesville, Fla.; Paul Max Jenkins and Lynn B. Fletcher of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Michael Vlcek of Chicago. They could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison and fined $10,000 each.
Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. scheduled sentencing for Jan. 5.
The verdict, following a day-and-a-half of jury deliberation, capped a nine-day trial highlighted by colorful testimony. Prosecution witnesses told of suitcases full of cash being exchanged for hashish from India concealed in brass doorknockers and marijuana delivered in broad daylight to conspirators' homes.
The conspiracy, the government said, ran from January 1977 to Dec. 5 of that year when federal agents seized $1.5 million cache of hashish concealed in a shipment of doorknookers that arrived at Dulles International Airport.
Although U.S. prosecutors presented a picture of a sophisticated, wellrun drug ring whose "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars" in profits from marijuana sales were used to finance importation of "houses... of hashish" from Asia, the government's case appeared to go less than smoothly.
Of four key prosecution witnesses -- all of them said to have abandoned their roles in the drug ring to testify -- one said he was going through drug withdrawal on the witness stand, the memory of a second failed in court, a third was unable to corroborate previous testimony he had given to a grand jury and a fourth declared under cross-examination that he was "a good liar."
Prosecutor Williams characterized the ring as "a jet-set organization," but defense attorneys sharply challenged that portrayal. They pictured their clients as a disorganized, bumbling group with names like "Hillbilly" -- for Haynie -- whose drug involvement never approached the level alleged by the government. "The gang that couldn't shoot straight," defense attorney Kennedy called them Tuesday.
The government imported 38 witnesses from around the country, but it was the testimony of Atlanta businessman William Coury that was viewed as critical by all sides in establishing the scope of the drug network.
Coury, who pleaded guilty to one felony drug charge in exchange for the government's recommendation of three years on probation, told of traveling to India and Nepal last year to arrange for huge shipments of hashish.
Twelve persons were indicted in the drug case last September. Of these, five were convicted yesterday, five have pleaded guilty, one is a fugitive and the case against another has been dismissed.