A jury has returned guilty verdicts on all six felony counts against Demetrius Colbert, the Marianna man charged with trafficking large quantities of cocaine and with shooting a federal agent during the 2011 raid that resulted in his arrest.
The jury returned to the courtroom shortly before 12:10 p.m. Friday, roughly an hour after leaving to begin deliberations in the case.
U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. then read the verdict forms that showed the panel found Colbert guilty of: conspiracy to possess more than 5 kilograms of cocaine with the intent to deliver, two counts of using a telephone to facilitate the conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm, assault on a federal officer with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
Colbert, seated by his defense attorney, spoke briefly and inaudibly as the verdicts were read. He faces extensive prison time on the charges, though no sentencing date was set.
For more on this story, read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
11:55 a.m. update
The jury has begun deliberations in the federal trial of Demetrius Colbert, the Marianna man accused of dealing large quantities of cocaine and shooting an FBI agent during the 2011 raid of his home that resulted in his arrest.
The jury left the courtroom shortly after 11 a.m. to begin discussions on the six felony counts against Colbert.
The deliberations began after prosecutors and Colbert's defense attorney presented closing arguments in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.
Defense attorney Mark Hampton conceded that Colbert does have a felony conviction and was in possession of a firearm, telling the jurors they should return a guilty verdict on that count. But, he said, the evidence fell far short on the other charges, and he asked the jurors to acquit Colbert on those.
Hampton argued the FBI's investigation fell short since it didn't involve video surveillance, didn't employ undercover police officers and didn't result in anyone's arrest during a purported drug transaction.
"The FBI got lazy on this case, ladies and gentleman," Hampton told the jury. "They could have done a lot more to prove this case."
Prosecutors countered with an overview of the evidence presented during the trial, which started Monday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Benecia Moore described how Colbert had no "legitimate" source of income that could account for his six luxury cars, two homes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. And she reminded jurors of the testimony of several coconspirators, including Colbert's uncle, who pleaded guilty in the case and testified against Colbert, detailing how the drug trafficking occured.
Hampton argued that that testimony should be disregarded because those witnesses were testifying as part of deals that could cut their prison terms.
Prosecutors played wiretapped conversations between Colbert and others recorded before their arrests that they said showed he was dealing far more cocaine than the level necessary to be found guilty of the charges against him. On the calls, Colbert and others are heard using terms like "nine-piece chicken dinner," a "circle" and a "mile," which prosecutors said are slang terms for various amounts of cocaine.
"They didn't know anybody was listening then," Moore said. "And the calls don't lie. You heard those calls in real time. They put you right in the middle of the conspiracy."
Authorities descended on Colbert's home early in the morning on Oct. 11, 2011, as part of Operation Delta Blues, a large-scale investigation into drug trafficking and public corruption in eastern Arkansas.
Colbert opened fire multiple times as federal agents breached his door, hitting one of them in the leg. Hampton argued it was self-defense and the agents hadn't done enough to make clear they were authorities and not burglars. Colbert had been asleep when agents first arrived, pounded on the door and announced their presence.
Hampton called the raid a "warfare tactic" meant to disorient, adding it was "impossible" for him to have realized it was authorities at the door.
"I don't think any of us would have been consciously aware enough ... to realize maybe one of the things being yelled through my door was 'FBI,'" Hampton said. "No, I don't think that's what happened here."
Moore said Colbert made a conscious choice to "protect his drug business," opening fire to buy time so he could get rid of large amounts of cocaine.
"Who answers a knock at the door with gunfire," Moore asked the jurors, noting that one shot went through the closed door and telling jurors that Colbert flushed "kilogram after kilogram" down the toilet while officers retreated. "When he'd gotten done destroying the evidence, he left the house with his hands up."
Colbert's trial is one of the last pending cases in the Delta Blues investigation in which dozens of defendants, including five police officers, were arrested.