Washington Redskins safety Tony Peters was arrested by federal agents yesterday at the team's Carlisle, Pa., training camp and charged with acting as a middle man in a conspiracy with seven other people to sell $115,000 worth of cocaine in the Washington area.
Peters, 30, a key figure in the revival of the Redskins defense that led to the team's Super Bowl victory last season, allegedly was paid $3,000 by an undercover agent for setting up two sales this summer, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Alexandria.
The complaint alleged that Peters introduced agents who were posing as buyers to a drug supplier in a meeting in June in a Rosslyn hotel.
David L. Westrate, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Washington field office, told a press conference in Alexandria yesterday, "We have no information of involvement by any other personnel of the Washington Redskins."
Late yesterday Peters took a leave of absence from the team, with pay, "so he can concentrate his full energies on his legal case," according to Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. In April, Peters signed a four-year contract with the Redskins that will pay him $185,000 this season and $1 million over the four years. Related stories on Page E1.
Cooke said, "We are offering all legal counsel possible to Tony. But it would be premature to make any other judgment. We will wait until the legal process runs its course."
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said he was "shocked" when he learned Peters had been arrested.
Peters' arrest was the latest episode in the growing problem of drug abuse among National Football League players. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended four players last month for cocaine involvement. It was the first time the league had suspended players for illegal drug use, although other players have been convicted and incarcerated in drug-related cases.
Peters is the second Redskin member to be arrested on drug charges this year. In March, reserve running back Clarence Harmon was arrested during a raid on a Texas apartment and charged with possession of cocaine, which he has denied.
Harmon and Peters were roommates at the Carlisle training camp. Cooke said that Harmon has decided to remain with the team while the drug charge against him is pending.
"We left it entirely up to them," Cooke said of Harmon and Peters.
After his arrest in Carlisle, Peters was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond--meaning he did not have to put up any cash--and ordered to appear yesterday afternoon before a federal magistrate in Alexandria. At the conclusion of that hearing, U.S. Magistrate W. Curtis Sewell allowed Peters to remain free. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 16.
All eight men named in the complaint are charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and face up to 15 years in prison and fines of $25,000 if convicted.
During the 15-minute hearing, Peters, wearing dark blue shorts and a polo shirt, answered questions about his family and occupation in a low voice.
Peters was represented by two lawyers, including S. Lon Babby, of the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly, which represents the Redskins. Babby declined comment on the case other than to say that he appeared with Peters at the team's request.
Peters declined to answer reporters' questions as he left the courthouse.
Two men named with Peters in connection with the alleged conspiracy were arrested Tuesday night in a Crystal City hotel after they allegedly sold 2 1/2 pounds of cocaine to federal drug enforcement agents.
A fourth man was arrested in Maryland yesterday morning. Those arrested besides Peters remained in custody last night. Authorities in the United States and Canada are continuing to search for the four others named in the complaint.
Peters, who played college football for the University of Oklahoma, came to the Redskins in 1979 in a trade with the Cleveland Browns. He was viewed widely as an aggressive player who helped bring a new tactical cohesiveness to the team. He logged his best season on the field last year and was elected by fellow players to the National Football Conference's Pro Bowl team.
Peters had reported to the Redskins' training camp in Carlisle on July 23. Yesterday morning, he was called to the team's offices in the camp and arrested without incident.
The DEA said the trail leading to Peters began in June 1982, when an undercover agent in Canada met Charles Bray, who investigators believe is either a half brother or stepbrother of Peters. Following are the government's allegations according to the court complaint and federal officials:
The agent, Ronald Nicholson, an 11-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who was posing as a drug buyer in Toronto, became acquainted with Bray, a bouncer in a bar there. Bray agreed to help him find drug suppliers. Bray's brother Douglas also took part in the search for suppliers.
On Sept. 22, 1982, Charles Bray told the Nicholson that he had a drug source in Washington, D.C., whom he identified as Peters. The next month, Bray indicated Peters was "ready to do business."
On Oct. 26, Bray produced a clear plastic bag containing about one gram of cocaine, which he said came from Peters. The next day Nicholson paid Bray $150 for the sample. At Nicholson's request, Bray telephoned a party Nicholson believed to be Peters to ask if he was ready to deal. Nicholson heard Bray request a half kilogram of cocaine.
Several attempts to consummate the deal fell through. On April 29 this year, Nicholson telephoned Peters directly from Canada. Peters confirmed he had supplied the sample. The two men spoke "on numerous occasions" in later days to discuss a deal, with Peters saying his sources were not available until June 28 or 29.
On June 28, Nicholson and a DEA undercover agent, Michael Pavlick, posing as Nicholson's financier, went to the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. There they met Peters, who introduced Ron Wood, 38, of 310 Yolanda St., Capitol Heights, Md., as the man who would make the sale. At a Georgetown restaurant, which federal agents refused to identify, the four discussed the sale of one pound of cocaine for $30,000 to $32,000.
The next day, Nicholson returned and purchased a half-pound of cocaine in a room in the Marriott for $17,000. Wood was present at the transaction, along with Thomas Peter Shaw Valanidas, 35, of Evergreen Street in Port Republic, Md., and Jose Cebada, 35, of Corona, N.Y.
On July 5, Pavlick met with Peters for drinks at Limericks Restaurant in Falls Church where Pavlick paid Peters $1,000 for his part in setting up the sale. Peters told Pavlick that he wanted to "participate in future and larger transactions."
On July 19, Pavlick and another undercover agent met Wood and Cebada at the Hospitality House Motor Inn in Crystal City and bought a pound of cocaine for $34,000. After the sale, a DEA surveillence team saw a man identified as William Burns, 29, of Lake Drive in Drum Point, Md., drive Wood and Cebada to National Airport.
Later that day, Pavlick and Peters again met at Limericks and discussed payments for the Hospitality House deal. Peters told Pavlick that he would not be available to collect his money because he would be in the Redskins training camp in Carlisle.
On July 30, the two men met again at Bogart's restaurant in Fairfax City. Pavlick gave Peters $2,000 as a fee for the July 19 sale.
On Tuesday, Jorge Alberto Robert, 35, an Argentine citizen who lives in Miami, flew to National Airport carrying about 2.5 pounds of cocaine. He was met at the airport by Ron Wood and the two checked into rooms at the Hospitality House.
Pavlick and another undercover agent went to Robert's room and gave him $64,000 for the cocaine. Wood and Robert were arrested in the hotel after the sale. Valanidas was arrested yesterday morning in Maryland. Cebada and Burns have not been apprehended. Canadian authorities are looking for the two Bray brothers. CAPTION: Picture 1, Redskins safety Tony Peters leaves court here after arraignment. UPI; Picture 2, Tony Peters has a $1 million contract with the Redskins. By Dick Darcey--The Washington Post