Redskins safety Tony Peters and three other men pleaded innocent in Alexandria yesterday to federal charges that link them to the alleged sale of $115,000 of cocaine to undercover agents this summer.
Peters, 30, a key figure in the Redskins' Super Bowl victory last January, said only "Yes, sir," when U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams asked him if he understood the nine drug charges he faces.
A National Football League player for the past nine seasons, Peters appeared at the 9 a.m. hearing in a gray business suit and was joined in the courtroom by his wife, mother and lawyer Gregory Murphy, whom he hired to prepare his defense to charges that he served as a middleman in drug deals in the Virginia suburbs.
The athlete, who has been on leave with pay from the team since his arrest Aug. 3 at the Redskins training camp in Carlisle, Pa., is specifically accused of having taken $3,000 from a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in exchange for helping arrange two cocaine sales.
If convicted, Peters, who recently signed a $1 million contract with the team, faces up to 114 years in prison and $215,000 in fines.
Williams set trial of the case for Oct. 12 and agreed to cut the bond of one defendant described by a prosecutor as "a major source of cocaine" in the Washington area.
The 25-minute arraignment was dominated by attorney Brian Gettings who challenged the government's drug-dealing assertion about the defendant, Jorge Alberto Robert of Miami, and urged that Robert's bond be cut from $350,000 bond to $50,000--the same bond Peters faces.
"It's my contention that this bond is excessive if not ridiculous," Gettings told Williams. "This is a garden-variety coke case. Nothing out of the ordinary."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J. Aronica opposed any reduction in the bond, telling the judge that Robert, a 35-year-old Argentine national, was likely to flee if released on bond. The judge granted the bond request, releasing Robert on a $50,000 secured bond, with stipulations that he surrender his passport and check in regularly with federal officers in Miami and in Northern Virginia when he is in either area.
Robert is charged with possession and distribution and interstate travel for drug trade. His bond was initially set at $150,000 and increased after his indictment last week.
Also arraigned yesterday were:
* Thomas Peter Shaw Valanidas, 35, a Calvert County school teacher, charged with possession and distribution and interstate travel to facilitate a drug sale.
* William Howard Burns Jr., 29, of Lusby, Md., also charged with possession and distribution and interstate travel to facilitate a drug sale.
A fifth man, Ronald Kirby Wood, 38, of Capital Heights, will be arraigned this morning on charges of possession and distribution, interstate travel to facilitate a drug sale and illegal use of a telephone. His arraignment was delayed after he told Williams he could not afford a lawyer.