Air Force Sgt. Joseph W. Sorrell told a federal court jury yesterday that he and his wife, impoverished when they were married three years ago, quickly made enough money as international heroin couriers to buy two new Datsuns and extensive wardrobes, and finance the purchase of a home.
Sorrell, testifying under a grand of immunity, said that Linwood Gray, the alleged mastermind of a heroin importation ring, paid him and his wife, Greta Terry-Sorrell, increasing amounts of money of smuggle heroin filled Marlboro cigarettes from Amsterdam to Washington.
Sorrell, 25, told the eight-woman, four-man jury hearing the massive heroin conspiracy case against Gray and 11 codefendants that the first time he and his wife ferried heroin, while on their honeymoon, they were paid $5,000 plus expenses.
Sorrell said Gray refused to pay them anything after a second trip was botched when another Gray lieutenant failed to meet the Sorrells in Amsterdam. But he testified the couple got $10,000 on a third trip and possibly as much as $15,000 after a fourth trip, in addition to their flight and living expenses and spending money.
Sorrell said that while they were in Amsterdam on their honeymoon they bought perfume, boots, shoes, jackets, suits, blouses, skirts, sweaters and a necktie, items worth $1,802.
After later trips, he said they bought two $6,000 Datsun 280Zs, the top-of-the-line model, and later financed the purchase of a $43,000 house.
In all, Sorrell said the couple was paid $26,000 to $29,000 for their work in what he gave at the trial the last two days, Sorrell hthat brought unsually high-grade heroin from the opium fields of Southest Asia to the streets of Washington.
In minute detail, Sorrell described how he and other couriers bought cartons of hard-pack Marlboro cigarettes at duty-free shops in the Copenhagen and Amsterdam airports and then substituted the heroin-filled cigarettes for the tobacco-filled ones, carton by carton, as they waited in the Amsterdam airport lounge or their flights of the United States.
Despite making a total of five trips to Amsterdam, Sorrell said under cross-examination that he never learned where the heroin came from since another courier, usually Ernest H. Minder, always arranged to fill the Marlboros with the heroin.
"When we got ready to go," Sorrell said of the Europe-to-America flights, "the dope was already in the cigarettes. How Ernie did it and where he got it I don't know."
Sorrell, who testified that at times he snorted heroin or shot it into his veins with his wife and others, said he "was excited about the money" he made on the trips. But later, when he started cooperating with the government, he said he was "afraid for my life."
Although the sequestered jury did not and will not hear testimony about it, Sorrell's wife was murdered and Sorrell shot in the neck and hip in January 1977 in their Capitol Heights apartment. A fugitive in the current case, Robert W. (Dirty Bob) Young Sr., has been charged in the killing and the shooting. In addition, Minder was found shot to death last October and the chief prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry L. Leibowitz, was shot and slightly wounded as he walked to the courthouse last Dec. 20.
Gray's defense attorney, Kenneth Michael Robinson, told U.S. District Judge William B. Bryant out of the jury's hearing that he believes Sorrell thinks that Gray ordered the attack on him and his wife and thus had a motive to testify against Gray. But other defense attorneys and Leibowitz objected to Robinson's proposed cross-examination and Bryant refused to allow any questions about the shootings.
Although Robinson got Sorrell to admit relatively minor discrepancies between the testimony he gave to the grand jury and what he gave jat the trial the last two days, Sorrell held to his basic story that Gray ordered the heroin smuggling trips.
The trial resumes Monday.