Kevin Redstrom’s Federal Drug Conspiracy Trial
Monday Afternoon - May 12, 2008: HUNG JURY
Shortly before 2:30 pm, the jury gathered in the courtroom of Judge Robert L. Vining, to inform the parties that they could not reach a consensus. On Count 1, the jury was stalemated at 10-2 in favor of acquitting, and on Count 2, 8-4 in favor of acquitting.
According to Foreman Dennis Rhea, of Rossville, the jury felt that three of the government’s witnesses, Jimmy Collins, Mario Armas and Lonnie Merrin, were just not credible. They had expressed to Foreman Rhea that they also wanted to see more of FBI Special Agents Chuck Reed’s notes on his and DEA Special Agent Tim Spears’s first meeting with Redstrom in Texas.
According to Rhea, one of the two who held firm to “Guilty” on both charges, most of the jury felt that Redstrom was probably involved in the first transaction, ($15,000.00), without realizing that Jimmy Collin’s business was not the bail bonding business, but despite the fact that Redstrom was counting the massive amounts of cash in the third or fourth transaction, they did not feel he was part of the conspiracy.
Assistant United States Attorney Lisa Tarvin said that the prosecution team needed to have some discussions and think some things through, before deciding whether or not to proceed with another trial. Defense Attorney David Wolfe said that this was the best of the American Jury System at work, 12 men and women carefully weighing the evidence, and coming to their own conclusions.
Kevin Redstrom will remain under bond until the government decides to prosecute, not prosecute or negotiate a Plea Deal.
Monday, May 12, 2008 - Lunch Break
No verdict yet, and deliberation will continue after lunch. For developmenst outside of court, related to this case, see today’s Feature Story, “As the Jury Deliberates”.
(For a full perspective of this trial, please click on Archives, choose “October” and read the day by day accounts from the Mario Armas trial, from October 1st through October 10th. There are also lead up articles setting some other ground work for the big picture, including “Belize- The Money Laundering Capital of the World”, “Bob Saylors - RFPRA-Al Leonard Connection” and “Conclusion to 2005-Saylors-RFPRA Report” which we ran from September 25-30, 2007.
Friday Evening, May 9, 2008 Evening Post
I believe that locals folks sometimes underestimate the reach that our little new site has. Although one semi-retired newsman, who posts regularly to this site while defending Bobby Lee Cook, has called me everything form a paranoid schizophrenic to an amateur journalist, to and amateur BLOGGER, it cannot be denied that we have reached across this nation and around the world.
To be sure, bloggers posting comments to my new articles has told me they are form Texas, Virginia, Florida, Arizona, California, New York, New Jersey and more. No, I mean real bloggers, not porn lead-ins, which I always SPAM, but honest to goodness bloggers responding to real articles I post.
I have been receiving regular e-mails since last October, form folks all over the Rodeo World, about my Armas Coverage. The most loyal followers are from Texas, and today, one who has never contacted me before, called my number to fill me in on the “Rest of the Story”. Christie, the ex-girlfrined of Defendant Kevin Redstrom, called this afternoon and left a message while I was sitting in Federal Court listen to Closing arguments. Because we also had to wait for the jury to deliberate, (At a little past 5:00 pm, they asked to be recessed until Monday morning), Christie Ray, who now is married and has a different last name, called me.
As I made my way home, listening to phone messages, I came to hers. And immediately turned around to head back to the Federal Building to try to grab one of the prosecution. It was because I had learned what Christie had in the way of documents and statement to offer, that I felt I needed to talk to them, but alas, Elvis was not the only one who had left the building.
I had a nice long chat with Christie, and learned much about the “Real” Kevin Redstrom. What’s even better, I have some documents which she is scanning and will be sending, soon. It’s odd that the fed never got in touch with her, because she has some interesting stuff to share, but I am guessing that Kevin Redstrom probably told the feds that he had no idea where she was, now. Of course, what I am learning about Kevin is that he is a big blue eyed liar. Kevin and his wife have actually run in to Christie and her hsuband, who is also on the rodeo circuit, twice in the last two years, and he knows exactly where Christie could be found.
But this story will wait until Sunday evening.
For now, we will report on what transpired this after noon during closing arguments.
Friday, May 9, 2008, Lunch Break: If A Man Would Fudge On His Child Support Obligations…
The Kevin Redstrom Defense Team launched its attack this morning, in the fourth day of trial for Redstrom’s participation in a Federal Drug Conspiracy. Two witnesses, Mike and Larry Haney of Rockmart, Georgia, both with ties to the much talked about Carl Black GMC Dealership and Trailer Dealership in Hiram, Georgia, took the stand to detail their relationship with Redstrom.
I was impressed with both witnesses, for the very down to earth, easy mannerisms, and simple honesty and straight forwardness. It was obvious that both men liked defendant Kevin Redstrom, but more than that, they respected him, both for his work ethic and ability to draw and retain repeat customers to the Bloomer Trailer Sales Division of Carl Black.
It was also obvious that both men intensely disliked Jimmy Collins, one of the star witnesses in both the Mario Armas trial last October, as well as during this current Kevin Redstrom trial.
When describing Jimmy Collins, Mike Haney told the court, “Jimmy Collins was a pain in the ass”. He and Larry Haney both talked about how Collins was always complaining, and threatening to sue if Carl Black did not take care of problems with the various vehicles and trailers he had bought from the dealership. According to Mike Haney, with regard to one trailer, “Because he had complained and threatened so much, we decided to just back up the deal”, meaning they took back the trailer and refunded the purchase to Collins.
On another incident, Mike Haney, who services the trailers and accessories, was called by an angry Collins, who demanded that Carl Black replace the brake controller Haney had installed, because the brakes were not working. When Haney replaced the controller, the brakes still did not work, and after accessing the situation further, Haney discovered that the actual brake line had broken at the wheel, and learned from Collins that Collins had blown out the tire when he accidentally drove off the road. The blowout caused the rupture of the brake line.
Still, Carl Black replaced the brake controller and the broken trailer hitch Collins had, at no cost to Collins.
Both Haney’s also detailed the constant payment problems they had with Collins, and Mike Haney noted that at one time, when they were legally attempting to repossess one of the luxury, live in trailers they had sold Collins, that Collins showed up at the custom interior shop SVM, in Missouri. The owners of SVM had heard about the trouble with regard to repossession, they called Redstrom, who came out and picked the van up.
And, both Haney’s talked about what a braggart Jimmy Collins was. Mike Haney told the court that when he first met Collins, Collins told him that he had played football for the New England Patriots.
About their friend and colleague, Kevin Redstrom, both Haney’s used the term, “workaholic”. Both told the court how Redstrom rarely took a lunch break, and how he was always working, and that if he was not actively selling or doing paperwork, he was out on the lot washing down and detailing the inventory.
Mike Haney told the court, “Kevin had a good reputation with customers. Everybody liked him”.
When asked if Redstrom was an honest man, Mike Haney answered “Yes Sir”.
When asked if Redstrom was a truthful man, Mike Haney Answered “Yes Sir”.
When Larry Haney took the stand, he talked more about the reputation Kevin Redstrom had, both in Arizona and here in Georgia. Haney talked about how Carl Black had gotten in to the Bloomer Trailer line of trailers, but were not so successful in sales. He called Randy Bloomer, the owner, and asked for him to recommend someone to help kick start the business. Randy Bloomer recommended Kevin Redstrom as the best in the business.
Haney, part owner of Carl Black Trailer Dealership in Hiram, and others, contacted Redstrom out in Arizona, where he owned his own lot. They flew him to Georgia, and offered him a salary of $6,000.00 per month, Plus Bonuses, Plus a Part Ownership in the Dealership, after a certain point. Because Redstrom also employed his girlfriend, Christie Ray, who had accompanied him from Arizona, as a secretary, Larry Haney told the court that Redstrom split part of his own salary with Christie.
When Christie Ray left Redstrom, cleaning him out of his household furniture, taking his best horse, and stealing a golf cart from the Haney’s, she also left her portion of Redstrom’s $6,000.00 per month, PLUS Bonuses, behind.
Larry Haney told the court that Redstrom was making all of his bonuses, and was such a fine salesman, that by the time he left in 2003, Redstrom owned 20% of the Carl Black Trailer Dealership.
Larry Haney also told about how he trusted Kevin Redstrom, and even worked making really good money with Redstrom in the Roping part of Rodeo. Haney said that since Redstrom had left, he had not made nearly so much money in rodeo.
As the court took a short break, I left thinking that I was going to have to change my mind about this Kevin Redstrom.
But, that was before Assistant United States Attorney, Lisa Tarvin, cross examined Larry Haney.
Tarvin re-questioned Larry Haney about Carl Black’s contract with Redstrom. She then asked him to look at part of the Government’s Exhibit, #51, which had already been introduced in to evidence. There were several items she walked him through, including a letter, preceding a garnishment, from the New Mexico DFACS, asking Carl Black to verify that Redstrom’s gross monthly income was $5,000. per month, (not the $6,000 plus bonuses that Redstrom was actually receiving).
The second item was the response letter, from Carl Black, on Carl Black stationary, asserting that Kevin Redstrom’s gross salary was ONLY $1,250.00 semi-monthly, or, $2,500 per month.
Carl Black helped perpetuate Kevin Redstrom’s lie to the courts about his gross salary, in order to avoid paying the child support he should have been paying. I wonder if Carl Black also helped Kevin Redstrom defraud the IRS.
Carl Black helped Kevin Redstrom dodge child support obligations.
I re-assert my prior observation that this begs the question: “Has anyone bothered to look in to the books of Carl Black?”
Closing Arguments will begin at 1:00pm.
Thursday, May 8, 2008 - Lunch Break: Lonnie Merren Breaks Down on Stand
Lonnie Merren and Special Agent Charles Reed took the stand this morning, in Day 3 of the Federal Drug Conspiracy trial of Kevin Redstrom.
Reed, who took the stand last, sporting his Ryan Seacrest/Retro PeeWee Herman hairstyle, catalogued his investigation conducted along with DEA Special Agent Tim Spears. The testimony was, for the most part, perfunctory and clinical.
It was a much needed calming effect after the emotional testimony, earlier in the morning, by Lonnie Merren, also a co-conspirator, who plead guilty last December, and has been sentenced to just over five years for his part in the Mario Armas led Criminal Enterprise.
Merren’s testimony was, at first, not so much different from Jimmy Collins, or even Mario Armas’s testimony, yesterday. He detailed the events leading up to the million dollar loan by Armas to Collins, through he and Kevin Redstrom, the loss of the monies in Arizona through the alleged kidnapping of Collins’ long time supplier and friend, (a story Merren obviously did not buy), which led to the kidnapping of Kevin Redstrom, detailed in yesterday evening’s story, (Below).
Merren detailed how on the drive to the Carl Black trailer lot in Hiram, Armas became more and more upset, so Merren asked Armas to allow him to pull into a station to allow him to use the restroom. Anticipating that Merren might call to alert Redstrom, Armas ordered one of the “collectors” to follow Merren in to the restroom, at which point, he confiscated Merren’s cell phone.
But as Merren got to the part about dropping Kevin Redstrom off at Carl Blacks, after they had kidnapped him, Merren broke down. He testified about the others wanting Chinese food, and when Assistant United States Attorney asked him what was talked about at lunch, Merren became so overcome, that Judge Robert L Vining, Jr., recessed for ten minutes, to allow Merren to regain his composure.
When court was reconvened, Merren told the court that on their way to lunch, Armas said to Merren, “He’d better be glad he got hold of Jimmy, or else I would have blown his brains out all over your pretty hair. Then I would have cut off his fingers and pull out all his teeth”.
It is very clear why neither Merren not Redstrom went to the police after such an ordeal, and why they even helped Armas lie to police about the “bail bonding business” loan Armas had made to Collins, in order to get a warrant for Collins’ arrest.
Readers may remember in the December 21, 2007 article about Lonnie Merren’s Plea Deal, Special Agent Tim Spears testified on behalf of Lonnie Merren, and even Assistant United States Attorney, Lisa Tarvin, told the judge that in all of her years of prosecuting, Lonnie Merren was the first defendant who wanted to tell everything, and did so, without EVER asking what sort to deal he could get in return for his testimony.
Merren was terrified for his family.
The government rested their case at lunch, and the defense will begin tomorrow morning at 9:30 am. There will be a brief Motions hearing, shortly after 2:00 pm this afternoon, but the jury will not be required for that.
Wednesday Evening, May 7, 2008 - 300% APR Usury Fees, a Crooked Cop, and an Opportunistic Attorney Who Looked the Other Way
It was an interesting afternoon in Federal Court, in the Northern District of Georgia, here in Rome today, as Mario Armas took center stage regaling his antics in the marijuana trade to the jury, the judge and spectators.
Armas had no compunction about admitting that he charged 25% per month, or 300% APR, for monies he loaned customers at his Pawn Shop, Empire Pawn, formerly located on Glen Milner Blvd., here in Rome, Georgia. He was testifying in the trial of his con-conspirator, Kevin Redstrom, having already been tried himself last October, and having taken a Plea Deal, less than two weeks into the testimony.
Home Burglary of Parkey Tarvin’s Ex-wife:
When being cross examined by defense attorney, David Wolfe, Armas confessed that he had planned the armed robbery along with one of the owners of the home which was robbed. This came as quite a shock, unless Armas meant Buffy Tarvin, the daughter of one of the victims, who had been allegedly told Mario Armas and his wife, Julie, about a supposed 7-9 million dollars hidden at the house, in order to get back at her father for having cut her out of the family fortune.
But this afternoon, Armas said it was one of the home owners who helped stage the break in, which is why the two “Black Guys”, as Armas referred to the two men who actually carried out the armed robbery, were not supposed to hurt anyone. According to Armas, he and the home owner made up the story about there being a large amount of money hidden there, and that the “Black guys” were supposed to leave with televisions, and a small amount of cash, and not get caught, “But a neighbor called and ruined the whole plan”.
Wade Hoyt III, and Detective Michael Keys:
When Wolf was cross examining Armas about having filed a false police report about Jimmy Collins having stolen $1,144,000.00 from him, for the drug deal gone bad, Armas explained that he had simply wanted his money back, and that he wanted Jimmy Collins to know that no matter where he was in the world, Armas could find him.
Armas detailed how he went to his attorney, Wade Hoyt, III, and gave him a story about Collins having borrowed the money for his bail bonding business, which he operated all over the country for the rich and famous. “I talked first to my attorney, Wade Hoyt…I did not tell Wade about marijuana business…I tell Wade it is for burglary business and these guys stole it”.
This is not how bail bonding businesses work, of course, as each state’s jurisdictions have their own set of peculiar rules, and for an attorney to accept this story as valid, does not ring true.
Not buying his story, Wolfe challenged Armas about whether or not Hoyt knew anything, and Armas said, “Wade didn’t believe my story about the bonding business - he’s my attorney, to protect me. He didn‘t ask questions”.
Armas promised Wade Hoyt, III, a 10% cut of the money recovered, if Hoyt would help. Hoyt then wrote a letter to Detective Mike Keys, whom Armas said was with the City of Rome. He then went to see Detective Keys, paid him $300.00 “Not to ask questions” and to help him get the criminal warrant. Keys filled out the warrant, again with the bail bonding angle, charging Theft by Conversion.
When Wolfe challenged Armas about being a liar, Armas told the court that he “Bent the truth”.
In a sweet turn of poetic justice, it was this corruption and greed which ultimately caused the downfall of Mario Armas’ “Empire”. Collins was so angry that he turned on the whole lot of the other conspirators, and All the Kings Horses, and All the Kings Men….
Dinner and a Movie? (Kidnapping and Lunch?)
Perhaps the most unbelievable part of the afternoon’s testimony, was Armas’ cavalier recounting of the day he and some hired thugs kidnapped the defendant, Kevin Redstrom.
Monies had been borrowed by Jimmy Collins, through Kevin Redstrom, through Lonnie Merren, from Mario Armas, for this coast to coast bail bonding business. After the first couple of drug transactions, when both principal and interest were paid early, Armas noticed that his money, lent in $100 increments, was being returned in plastic-airtight sealed stacks of 10’a and 20’s. He knew that the story about the bonding business to the rich and famous could not be accurate, and so Merren and Redstrom came clean about Collins’ marijuana smuggling operation. “I don’t give SH_ T, as long as I don’t lose my money. (It would not be the last time we heard that expletive during the course of Armas’ testimony.
When the loan amounts had risen to over the million dollar mark, and interest-only payments had been made, but no principal, Armas started getting nervous.
His phone calls were not being returned, so he hired two “Black guys”, “Collectors who had offered their services to me before - Broken legs, sending people to intensive care”.
Armas told the court how the two “Collectors rode in the back seat of his Lincoln Navigator, he drove, and Lonnie Merren rode in the front with him. Before they drove to Carl Black dealership, where Kevin Redstrom sold horse trailers, in Hiram, Georgia, Armas instructed the men to lay down a tarp on the back seat.
When asked why, Armas answered, “In case he shit himself”…”I don’t want that all over my car”.
When asked why the two men carried guns, Armas explained it was for the “Fear Factor”.
He told the court that when they arrived at Carl Black, Lonnie Merren rolled down the window and called to Redstrom. As Redstrom approached the car, he was ordered in to the car, but refused. One of the “collectors” got out, and again told Redstrom to get in the car, but Redstrom explained he had to tell his secretary he was leaving. Redstrom actually did this, and then went back to the waiting Lincoln Navigator and got in.
By Armas’ account, they drove until they found “a quiet place to talk”, a deserted road. When they stopped, Armas turned around and told Redstrom he had five minutes to contact Jimmy Collins. When Redstrom made excuses, Armas then told him, “Now you have less than five minutes”. Redstrom got in touch with Collins, who was at a gas station out in Arizona, filling up with gas. He talked to Redstrom, then to Armas, and made some promises about re-payments, which satisfied Armas.
When asked what he did next, Armas replied, “When everything is clarified, I say, ‘Let’s go eat lunch”.
Oddly enough, Kevin Redstrom declined, saying he had to get back to work. After dropping their victim off, the others decided to go get Chinese. When Armas realized he did not have his wallet, the kidnapping posse drove back and borrowed money from their most honorable victim.
It was the most bizarre testimony I have ever heard. Thug hiring, loan sharking drug conspirator & kidnapper one minute, and just “one of the guys” looking for a good hot lunch the next.
Testimony resumes tomorrow at 9:30 am.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - Lunch Break - Mario Armas Takes the Stand
Most of this morning’s testimony was the conclusion of the defense teams’ cross examination of Jimmy Collins. Defense Attorney, Ricardo Perez, wrangled with Collins over minor discrepancies between Collins’ testimony last fall, during the Mario Armas trial, and his testimony yesterday and today.
Perez challenged Collins on elements of memory slippages, which the jury will have to determine are either critical and purposeful alterations in testimony, or simply the result of the normal course of memories, from four and five years ago, being a little fuzzy on exact dates and minor occurrences.
Shortly before noon, Mario Armas took the stand, and began describing his early days in Rome, events which led him to become engaged in the marijuana trafficking, and other details.
As Assistant United States Attorney, Cassandra Schansman led him through his testimony, Armas spoke with a clear and commanding voice, which when combined with his lilting Italian accent, (remember that while his father was Guatemalan, his mother was Italian), it was easy to understand the charm with which he wooed so many Rome citizens. He told the court that he now resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the federal prison there, because he has taken responsibility for the crimes he had committed. “I guess we all have to pay the price for our mistakes”.
He told the court that he loved this great country, and he would die defending it.
As Schansman took Armas through his Plea Agreement, and his Final Sentence, Schansman had Armas specifically identify the portion of his agreement which requires him to detail anything he knows about Public Corruption.
Readers may remember that during the first days of the Armas trial, last October, a check written by Jimmy Collins, to Mario Armas, for drug monies, and which had been laundered through local attorney Wade Hoyt. (See Archives, October 2, 2007 “Does Armas Evidence Implicate Former Floyd County Attorney Wade Hoyt?”), was revealed to the jury.
Additionally, throughout last October’s trial, tape recording were revealed of Armas bragging about how he owned the Sheriff at that time, Tommy Rickman, and that he could work deals with the District Attorney and at least one judge.
There is also one tape which catches a local police officer talking to Armas, and then Armas turns to Talmadge Green, an un-indicted co-conspirator in the robbery, and brags that he owns that particular cop.
Other names besides, attorney Wade Hoyt, III, former Sheriff Tommy Rickman, and unnamed District Attorney and judge, which have surfaced, include former Sheriff’s Office employee, Charles Ledbetter, and others.
This morning, Armas made it clear that before ever meeting Jimmy Collins, that he knew he was lending money to Lonnie Merren, to give to Kevin Redstrom, to hand over to Jimmy Collins for the marijuana business. Armas was emphatic, and very credible, leaving little wiggle room for the Defense’s theory that Kevin Redstrom did not know what the business loans from Armas to Collins was for, and that he assumed it was for the bail bonding business.
Tuesday Evening - May 6, 2008, A Glimpse at A Chattooga County Connection
Jimmy Collins again took the stand this afternoon, and repeated much of what he had testified to last October, during the Mario Armas trial phase of this drug conspiracy case. We learned a few new elements this morning, which I have iterated below, of particular note, how Jimmy Collins used to pay for the vehicles and trailers at Carl Black - with neatly wrapped increments of $10,000.00 of fifty and hundred denominations bills. (See Opening Statements, Lunch Break, below).
However, there were new things we learned about Jimmy Collins, himself, because of the excruciatingly, meticulously layered question of Redstrom’s co-council, Ricardo Perez, of McCallen, Texas. As the Rome News Tribune Reporter, John Bailey, and I learned during a break, McCallen is the largest, hottest quail hunting spot north of the Rio Grande, and so perhaps it is Perez’s careful habits at flushing out coveys of quail, which have led him to be such a minutia detail cross-examiner.
This is not a criticism at all, and loyal readers know I critique attorney styles with brutal candor.
There were moments in this afternoon’s cross, which for one who had sat through Jimmy Collins’ week long testimony last fall, and then his cross examination, and now through a morning of testimony, and a full afternoon of cross, when I thought I could stand up and answer Mr. Perez’ questions, myself.
HOWEVER, I learned much I did not know, about Jimmy Collins, and the days during his Floyd County incarceration, as well as details about those days and weeks after he was finally bonded out.
For instance, we did not hear, last October, about how Mario Armas kept slipping notes and instructions to Jimmy Collins at the Floyd County jail, via deputies loyal to Sheriff Rickman, who was still in charge. But, according to Collins, certain deputies close to Rickman slipped him many notes, and even allowed Armas access to the jail to come watch Collins.
This from the man who had Collins arrested on bogus charges of Theft by Conversion, for the one million dollars Armas had given to Collins to purchases drugs in Arizona. (IF bogus charges sound familiar, hop across to the Feature Story columns, and read about Bobby Lee Cook’s favorite game). The deal went bad, Collins lost the money in a kidnapping for ransom situation, and Armas meant he was going to exact his money from Collins. In testimony this afternoon, it became clear that the plot to rob the home of Parkey Tarvin’s ex-wife, here in Rome, to steal the 7-9 million dollars in cash which Parkey had hidden there, was hatched after Collins came back from Arizona, but before Armas had Collins arrested.
It was only after Collins initially refused to be part of the plot, that Armas took out the warrant for Collins’ arrest.
So, this same Mario Armas, who has had Jimmy Collins arrested on bogus charges, knowing he owns the Floyd County Sheriff at that time, (Tommy Rickman), suddenly becomes Collins’ best friend, and arranges bond for him, and arranges for him to get a new lawyer.
GUESS WHO the new lawyer, which Mario Armas wants Collins to get is? Rex Abernathy of Summerville, Georgia, law partner to Bobby Lee Cook, the “Bogus, trumped up charges KING”.
Now, Jimmy Collins already has an attorney, but Armas insists, and so Collins pays Rex Abernathy’s retainer when he gets out. But on the ride from his last bond hearing, back to the jail, another Sheriff’s Deputy, who is not Rickman’s puppet, suggests to Collins that he has some law enforcement friends from outside of the area, (Feds), who do not buy the whole Armas story, and might be interested in talking with Collins. Collins considers it, and when he is out, he talks it over with Rex Abernathy. But Rex Abernathy DOES NOT WANT Collins talking to the feds.
Collins decides he will talk, anyway, and does so without Abernathy present, and without having a deal in place. Of course, at this critical juncture, our local Floyd County District Attorney cooperates, and agrees to drop the charges against Collins, since they are bogus charges, anyway, as they meet with Patterson, several unidentified local detectives, and DEA Agent Tim Spears.
Soon, Collins is working as a CI, for Special Agent Tim Spears, DEA, and Special Agent Chuck Reed, FBI. The relationship is productive, and we saw the fruits of this union last fall when after two weeks of intense, irrefutable testimony, Mario Armas took a Plea Deal.
But the bonus, for me, came this afternoon when Collins, again while answering the excruciatingly detailed questions of Perez, was discussing his bail bonding business he ran prior to getting in to drug smuggling. He told Perez that the bail bonding business was good because he knew the right attorneys in Atlanta. Perez asked him to name the attorneys, and among others, he mentioned Bruce Harvey and Steven H. Sadow.
Now, for those who are familiar with the Dixie Mafia, or at least with organized crime in North West Georgia, those two names will jump out at you. They are closely affiliated with Bobby Lee Cook. In fact, Steven H. Sadow currently represents Bobby Lee Cook and Rex Abernathy in the federal forfeiture and seizure case, of property belonging to Mark Anthony (Dog) Perry, a good old redneck member of the Mexican Mafia in Polk County, (See Archives, “Feature Story” - Bobby Lee Cook, Rex Abernathy and the Mexican Mafia, March 17, 2008).
So, this is certainly a cozy little circle shaping up here, with a handful of attorneys representing a fist full of drug dealers in Northwest Georgia, who fear that one or more of them might talk to the feds.
Thank heavens, Jimmy Collins has. His reasoning? As in testimony last October, he told the court, toady, that Armas had threatened Redstrom and his family, Merren and his family, and promised to put Collins and his family in body bags, AND he had Collins arrested.
It looks like either a war or an alliance shaping up between the Mexican Mafia and the good old boy Dixie Mafia. I am just not sure which. But drugs, kidnapping, murder, extortion and money laundering are the components, and greed is at the very heart of it all.
Testimony resumes tomorrow at 9:30am.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - Lunch Break
Opening Statements began this morning in the Drug Conspiracy trial of Kevin Redstrom, a hold over from the Mario Armas case from last fall.
Last December 21, 2007, when Mario Armas was sentenced, and when Lonnie Merren took a Plea Deal, Kevin Redstrom was also supposed to take a Plea Deal. However, Federal Judge Robert L. Vining told the court that day that something in the Redstrom’s Plea Deal did not ring true, and that he had looked at it carefully, several times. He told the court that December day, that that morning, he had gotten up in the wee small hours of the morning, and told his wife to put the coffee on. He read through statements by Kevin Redstrom relative to his Plea Deal, and found some inconsistencies, and so he was not accepting the Plea Deal that day.
Redstrom was in court again in late January, to learn that he would have to stand trial, which began yesterday, with the Voir Dire.
The tenor of this case is already different however, as displayed even during opening statements. Of course, Special Drug Prosecutor, Lisa Tarvin, is presenting the government’s case, much in the same way she did for the Mario Armas case.
But the lead attorney for Redstrom, L. David Wolfe of Atlanta, is much more amiable than Mario Armas’ attorney, much less bombastic, and more engaging, instead of accusing. In fact, as he rose for opening statements, he addressed the jury with “Howdy folks”, perhaps setting the tone for his cowboy client, a World Class rodeo roping champion.
There are also differences in the testimony of Jimmy Collins, who was the Government’s first witness today, as in the previous Armas trial. During his week long testimony last fall, un-indicted co-conspirator Jimmy Collins’ demeanor was born of a righteous indignation and anger towards Mario Armas, who had ratted out the entire game by filing Theft By Conversion charges against Collins here in Floyd County.
Readers may remember that Collins and Armas had become engaged in drug trafficking through Lonnie Merren and Kevin Redstrom. But when a drug deal went bad out in Arizona, resulting in the kidnapping of a long time source and another friend, Jimmy Collins, paid a million dollar ransom to secure the freedom of his friends. A good deal of that seed money belonged to Mario Armas.
Testimony revealed that Mario Armas and his wife, Julie, met with Jimmy Collins and others to plot how to get the money back, by robbing the ex-wife of gambler Parkey Tarvin. However, prior to those meetings, Armas had actually filed charges against Collins, which resulted in his being arrested in New Mexico, and being extradited back to Floyd County. Armas told local authorities here in Rome, Georgia, that Collins had borrowed one million dollars, and had refused to pay it back. But Collins laid the whole story out, thus bringing Mario Armas, described today by attorneys, as the Don Corliogne of Rome, Georgia.
As Assistant U.S Attorney Lisa Tarvin told the jury today, this case was “about drugs, guns, kidnapping and other crimes all done for the love of money, for greed…At one point, in his greed, Mario Armas went to the police to get Jimmy Collins arrested…But Collins cooperated”.
As Collins said today, speaking of Armas, “He had broke the rules and gone to the cops”.
The tone of Jimmy Collins’ October testimony during the Mario Armas trial, was therefore focused and clear. But today, Collins testimony was of that of a friend, and so far, seems to make Redstrom out to be a passing element to the conspiracy, saying this morning that “Kevin’s roll was not so hands-on, but was for making some extra money, fro desires”.
However, Lisa Tarvin described Redstrom as the “Key in the ignition” of this conspiracy, saying that “But for Kevin Redstrom, these people, (Merren and Armas), would never have come together”.
Perhaps the most salient point I took home, this afternoon, was a point Jimmy Collins was very adamant about, driving home quite emphatically, when talking about his many purchases through Carl Black vehicles and trailers. “Anything I did with Carl Black was cash”. Collins described how he would pay for the luxury, live in horse trailers, (Bloomers), and other vehicles from Carl Black dealerships with stacks of cash. “Fifties, and hundreds”, according to Collins, neatly wrapped in stacks of $10,000.00.
Which begs the question, “Has anyone bothered to look in to the books of Carl Black?”.
Testimony resumes at 1:45pm.