MIAMI, FEB. 9 -- A federal jury convicted former Miami police officers Osvaldo Coello and Mario Carballo of racketeering, cocaine possession and conspiracy for their roles in a drug ripoff ring that turned several young officers into millionaires.
The 11 jurors deliberated 10 days, at one point reporting a deadlock. The convictions bring to 14 the number of policemen who have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the scandal. Two other ex-policemen are fugitives.
The jurors acquitted Coello, 27, of the most serious charges: civil rights violations in the July 1985 deaths of three drug off-loaders who drowned when they jumped into the Miami River as a group of police stormed the Jones Boat Yard.
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Ryskamp, who presided over the six-week trial, set sentencing March 25. Coello faces 120 years, Carballo 100 years. The judge also revoked Carballo's bond. Carballo, 32, blew a kiss to his wife, Maria Elena, as federal marshals led him away.
The jury went into a second stage of deliberations to determine what, if any, drug money the defendants should forfeit. Both defense attorneys urged the jurors not to punish their clients further.
Coello rejected a prosecution offer Monday to drop several charges, including the three civil rights counts, if he would plead guilty to two conspiracies that carry a maximum 40-year sentence. "He needed to have a verdict on those civil rights counts," his lawyer, Robert Diaz, said. "It was important to him for himself and his future to stand innocent of those charges."
A year ago, another jury failed to reach a verdict on Coello and six of his fellow officers. In that trial, the key prosecution witnesses were two drug dealers. Since then, four ex-patrolmen admitted their involvement in the conspiracy and, in exchange for lesser sentences, agreed to testify in this trial.
Defense attorneys said they would appeal.
Police Chief Clarence Dickson said he was thrilled with the verdict and proud of the jury. When the news reached headquarters, he said, "a great deal of relief just came out through the halls."
The four officers who testified at the trial are in the witness protection program and will be sentenced this month. One of them, Rodolfo Arias, 32, has said he has given information on as many as 70 officers. More than 70 officers have been suspended, fired or forced to quit since the corruption investigation began in 1985.
Dickson has said that up to 10 percent of the 1,033-member department was corrupt and that more arrests will follow.