A Prince George's County bar owner was convicted of cocaine distribution last night despite claiming in testimony that police planted evidence in his home as part of an elaborate setup.
Joseph A. Compofelice, co-owner of the Stingray nightclub in Brentwood, was charged with selling cocaine to a police informant on April 30 and again on June 1. When detectives searched his Camp Springs home on June 1, they said, they found drug paraphernalia, $56,000 in cash, a gram of cocaine on a bookshelf and an athletic bag holding about $28,000 worth of the drug.
Compofelice, 42, whose bar has been the focus of neighborhood complaints about drug dealing, testified during his trial that police responded to public pressure by creating a phony case against him.
The building and land where the bar is situated, in the 3800 block of 38th Avenue, is owned by state Sen. Thomas Patrick O'Reilly (D-Prince George's). O'Reilly, who was not implicated in the case, said in June he was "absolutely and totally shocked and outraged" to learn of Compofelice's arrest.
In testimony, Compofelice acknowledged meeting with the informant, but denied selling him cocaine. As for the $56,000, he said he intended to use some of it to pay beer and liquor suppliers. He accused police of planting the drug paraphernalia and the gram of cocaine. As for the athletic bag, he said that the informant had given it to him to hold, and that he never looked inside.
But jurors in the Circuit Court trial, which began Nov. 13, rejected Compofelice's claims. After deliberating for 4 1/2 hours, they convicted him of two counts of cocaine distribution and one count each of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute and maintaining a common nuisance.
Each charge is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Judge James M. Rea scheduled sentencing for Jan. 3. Compofelice, who remains free on $70,000 bond, declined to comment on the verdicts.
Compofelice also was charged with witness intimidation and with a gambling offense stemming from the alleged use of illegal electronic poker game machines in the bar. But Rea dismissed those charges, and also dismissed conspiracy charges against Compofelice's wife, Fay, 43.
The witness intimidation charge stemmed from remarks Compofelice allegedly made to county police Detective John Bartlett as Bartlett was arresting Compofelice's wife. Bartlett testified that Compofelice told him, "I hope your mother dies on Christmas Day." He also allegedly warned that neither Bartlett nor the informant would survive to testify.