Jury to Begin Deciding Case Over Gun Sales
Pistols May Be Tied to Informant's Death
December 21, 1999
Federal jurors in Newark were expected to begin deliberating today in the case of an Army sergeant and his wife accused of conspiring to buy guns for a Paterson drug dealer who killed a government informant in Garfield in 1996.
Prosecutors allege that Sgt. George Wilson, while stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado, bought four 9mm semiautomatic pistols at a pawn shop in April 1996 and supplied them to his wife's cousin, David Cruz.
They also allegedly arranged the purchase of a shotgun for Cruz at another pawn shop and falsely reported the guns stolen. The couple were indicted July 7 on charges that they conspired to supply guns to a convicted felon.
Seven months after the gun purchases, Cruz fired 13 bullets from a 9mm handgun into Ricardo Santiago, a convicted drug dealer who had sought to lessen a possible prison term by giving information to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Cruz was convicted in December 1997 and is serving a life term.
But jurors in the trial of Wilson and his wife, Janet, have heard no evidence about the Santiago murder, because U.S. District Judge Alfred M. Wolin has ruled that it would be unfair to the Wilsons.
Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney John A. Azzarello has built a case on the testimony of government agents, records of the gun purchases, and 24 tapes of Cruz's phone conversations with Janet Wilson and other family members, recorded at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.
The lead investigator, Patrick Flood of the DEA, testified Monday that Cruz had "an unhealthy obsession with firearms," and that he been convicted in 1990 on a gun charge.
But defense attorneys for the Wilsons closely questioned Flood about a series of calls made from Cruz's stepmother's Bloomfield home to the Wilson residence in Colorado Springs around the time of the purchases.
"Can you tell us beyond a reasonable doubt who made those calls?" asked George Wilson's attorney, James Patton. Flood said he could not.
But Flood said that Paterson police Sgt. Dan Nichols had spotted Cruz while on a surveillance detail around the time of the calls, and that Cruz had bought a large amount of ammunition from a North Jersey gun shop.
Janet Wilson's attorney, Patrick Mullin, also questioned Flood closely about the earlier testimony from another Army sergeant, Juan Baldemiro-Rodriguez. He pleaded guilty in April to helping supply the shotgun to Cruz, and is cooperating with prosecutors while awaiting sentencing.
Flood testified that Rodriguez had wanted to cover up for the Wilsons before admitting his involvement and pleading guilty in federal court to trading the shotgun to the Wilsons for a gas grill.
"He lied to me," Flood said. "He was sticking to his cover story."
But Flood said Rodriguez came clean after prosecutors picked apart his account in March and threatened to press charges against him.
Flood also testified about the arrest of the Wilsons in Paterson, where they were visiting while he was on leave from an Army post in Germany. He testified that two agents had drawn their guns even though the Wilsons were with their three children.
After Flood testified, the defense attorneys declined to put on any witnesses. Wolin instructed the lawyers to begin summations this morning on the trial, which began Dec. 10. The judge also told jurors to prepare to deliberate until late afternoon.
If convicted on the charges, the Wilsons face up to three years in prison.
After the hearing, Azzarello, Mullin, and Patton declined comment.