The defense rested today in the trial of Curtis Strong, a Philadelphia caterer accused of selling cocaine to major-league baseball players, without calling the defendant or any players as defense witnesses in U.S. District Court here.
Adam Renfroe Jr., Strong's attorney, said, "It may not be in my client's best interests" when asked why he did not call any players. Six current and one former player testified with immunity for the prosecution.
Instead, Renfroe brought in seven witnesses today, including the defendant's parents and two of his sisters, who testified to Strong's character and provided additional alibis to cover all but one of the 14 remaining counts of trafficking in cocaine he is charged with between June 13, 1980, and May 14, 1984.
Strong is charged with selling cocaine in the Western District of Pennsylvania to Dave Parker five times, Enos Cabell four times, Lonnie Smith three times and John Milner twice.
Asked by Renfroe if her son used or sold drugs, Helen Louise Strong replied, "No, my son doesn't even like nobody who smokes cigarettes."
Judge Gustave Diamond told the jury he will limit Thursday's closing arguments to 75 minutes for each side and that he expected the jury to be considering the evidence by midafternoon. Diamond announced that the jury would be sequestered if it didn't reach a verdict by the close of court Thursday.
As the Strong trial wound down, jury selection was completed in the cocaine-trafficking case of Robert McCue, 38, former comptroller of the Easter Seal Society of Allegheny County. He and Strong are among seven Pennsylvania men indicted May 31 by a federal grand jury here that heard testimony from at least a dozen current or former players who were granted immunity.
McCue is charged with 13 counts between June 1983 and January 1985. Dale Berra and Rod Scurry, both former Pittsburgh Pirates who now play for the New York Yankees, and former Pirate Milner are listed as government witnesses. Berra and Milner testified against Strong.
After court today, Renfroe said he had been told by the attorney for 21-game winner Joaquin Andujar that the Cardinals' pitching star had received immunity here but did not testify before the grand jury. "There's one thing for sure," Renfroe added. "Every ballplayer with a connection to this case has been immunized."
That could not be confirmed today.
Both J. Alan Johnson, the U.S. attorney for this region, and Jim Crummett, Andujar's Philadelphia-based attorney, declined comment.
But it was learned from another government official that the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Andujar both in St. Louis and here. Andujar was not granted immunity in St. Louis, according to Charles Shaw, an assistant U.S. attorney there.
Immunity is sure to be a major issue in closing arguments for each side. From his opening statement, Renfroe has attacked the credibility of the player-witnesses, whom he says are the real dealers and using his client as a scapegoat. No testimony in the Strong trial has shown that any players were selling drugs for profit or using cocaine later than the fall of 1984.
"You can argue the effect of immunity on the credibility of the witness," Diamond told the lawyers. "But there is a clear distinction that it is improper for counsel to suggest that the verdict should reflect the decision to grant immunity."
William Picarello, a Philadelphia bartender, testified that "considering the routine he (Strong) established . . . the probability was extremely high" that the defendant was with him in Philadelphia on the dates of eight counts in which Strong is alleged to have sold cocaine here.
Alberteen Mosley testified that Strong was shopping with her and her sister in Philadelphia on two other dates and was attending a family outing on a third. On Tuesday, alibis for two of the three other counts were provided by a part-time travel agent and a man who said Strong runs the food concession in his restaurant and bar. Renfroe said the prosecution had not proved the other count.
But the exact dates are not crucial because the government contends in each case that the sale occured during a specific series and that baseball players recall dates by the schedule, not the calendar.