An Arlington Circuit Court jury convicted two Miami men yesterday of drug possession and conspiracy in connection with one of the largest cocaine sting operations in the Washington area.
The jury, which had deliberated for more than 14 hours over three days, recommended that Timothy J. Marfisi, 33, and Joseph F. Azarewicz, 32, be imprisoned for 23 years and fined $50,000 each for delivering cocaine with a street value of more than $2.5 million to a convicted drug dealer.
The two men sat expressionless as the jury's verdict was read. Their relatives began crying aloud as Judge Charles H. Duff revoked their bail and ordered them jailed pending sentencing March 24.
Marfisi and Azarewicz were arrested last March in a stakeout at an Arlington motel after D.C. undercover detectives paid $133,000 to a third man in Georgetown for more than four pounds of virtually pure cocaine.
Police charged that Marfisi and Azarewicz had carried more than six pounds of the drug from Miami to the dealer, Judah R. (Robbie) Lyons of Colorado. Lyons was arrested in the District, convicted of drug distribution in D.C. Superior Court and sentenced to five years in prison. He is currently free pending appeal.
"Never in this county has there been a case that indicates more clearly professional drug distribution," Arlington prosecutor Henry Hudson said after the verdict was handed down late yesterday afternoon.
The verdict followed a 2 1/2 day trial in which the defendants tried to portray themselves as victims of a larger drug trafficking plot. Azarewicz, a slight, sandy-haired man who described himself as a carpenter currently living in Colorado, told the jury that some friends of Lyons had threatened to shoot him if he did not carry the drugs on a trip from Miami to Washington that he and Marfisi had planned earlier. "I was told I better get with the program or I'd be a dead man," he testified.
"There's no escape from that type of duress," argued Azarewicz's lawyer, Henry Gonzales of Tampa. "He did what he did because he was scared."
Marfisi, a high school friend of Azarewicz who was described by his attorney as a "vagabond, a will-o-the-wisp," testified that he knew nothing about the planned drug transaction until he saw Azarewicz handing the cocaine over to Lyons in their Arlington motel room. He said he had gone along on the trip because he wanted to sell a car that he and Azarewicz owned.
Prosecutor Hudson argued that the defendants, who were carrying forged identification papers and had 2.2 pounds of cocaine in their car when they were arrested, clearly had been transporting drugs for profit.
"Is it consistent with human experience that someone is going to hold someone at gunpoint and entrust them with $2.5 million worth of cocaine?" he asked the jury in his closing argument. "It taxes the imagination."
Both men were convicted of possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, charges that in Virginia carry maximum sentences of up to 80 years in prison.
Attorneys for both argued yesterday that the two should be allowed to remain free on bonds of up to $125,000. Attorney Kenneth Robinson said Lyons was free on bond and his role in the alleged conspiracy was "bigger than these two." Attorneys for both the men convicted yesterday said they would try to have the sentences reduced from the jury's recommendations.
The arrests of Lyons, Azarewicz and Marfisi capped an 18-month probe by the D.C. police department, in which narcotics investigators said they traced a drug transaction back to its source and then placed an order for more.
When notified that the drug shipment was to arrive, investigators said, they staked out all the parties involved. Arlington police cooperated in the investigation.