A federal judge on Thursday pushed the start of the jury trial of a former Aspen man arrested for his alleged role in a cocaine-trafficking network to later this month.
The trial of Montgomery Chitty, 61, who is the last thus far to be arrested for a Los Angeles-to-Aspen drug ring, will be the first trial since the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s initial arrests of several upper-valley residents in 2011.
It was to start Monday, but Chitty filed a motion Jan. 30 asking for a two-week continuance, contending that the prosecution had failed “still to deliver, now less than two weeks before trial, documents and evidence essential to [the] defense.”
Chitty, a resident of Big Pine Key, Fla., is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.
He was arrested in February 2012 and has pleaded not guilty. The DEA alleges he helped five Aspen-area residents, who have pleaded guilty to various charges, bring to the upper valley some 200 kilos of cocaine over 15 years from Los Angeles.
If convicted, Chitty faces at least 20 years in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence brought on by his 1990 conviction in Louisiana for marijuana trafficking, and as long as a life sentence. He is representing himself, though he is able to consult an attorney.
Among those who have pleaded guilty is Wayne Reid of Aspen, described by the DEA as one of the leaders of the trafficking ring. Reid, 66, is expected to be sentenced in March to four to eight years in prison, and to testify against Chitty during the trial as part of his plea deal with authorities.
Chitty, meanwhile, plans to call at trial a confidential informant that the DEA used during its 15-month investigation, as well as other defendants.
In his motion, written by hand from the federal detention center in Littleton, Chitty says that prosecutor Michelle Korver of the U.S. attorney’s office “promised to supply evidentiary records essential for the defense.
“To date defendant Chitty has only a small fraction of promised documents delivered only yesterday, Jan. 29, 2013,” he wrote. “Among those records not yet received include: additional credit card evidence; all law enforcement grand jury testimony; Reid telephone transcripts with drug distributors; confidential informant grand jury testimony; [and] DEA investigative reports regarding defendant.”
Chitty, known as a political pundit when he lived here, was a friend of the late Hunter S. Thompson and was a former consultant to the Democratic National Committee, according to a 2009 Aspen Daily News article.
Among the questions he plans to ask prospective jurors are: “How do you feel about Colorado’s recent legalization of marijuana?” and “Would you hold it against Mr. Chitty representing himself because he might make mistakes not being a lawyer?”
Korver opposed the continuance motion, saying in a filing that Chitty’s statement that he has not received evidence essential to his defense is inaccurate.
The government has twice provided all of the items in the government’s possession that Chitty has requested, Korver’s response says.
“Some of his confusion, however, may stem from the fact that some of the items he is requesting either may not exist, or he is not entitled to them under law,” Korver wrote. “Specifically, no confidential informant or law enforcement officer who testify at trial testified [before] the grand jury.”
Korver’s response also says that Chitty “and his prior counsel have already received 95 percent of the DEA investigative reports bearing on this case.”
Chief Judge Marcia S. Krieger of U.S. District Court ruled that the five-day trial will start Feb. 25 and ordered the prosecution to produce the outstanding documents yesterday.