Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Drug trial under way

Prosecution says Burns is kingpin

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Antonio Burns, described by police as Northern Kentucky's biggest and most dangerous drug dealer, went on trial this week in U.S. District Court.

        Mr. Burns, 24, of Mount Airy, faces life in prison if convicted of several charges stemming from alleged drug-dealing between November 1997 and January 1999.

        He is accused of selling more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of crack cocaine in Campbell and Kenton counties.

        Each kilogram is estimat ed to be worth $20,000 on the street, meaning that he is accused of distributing more than $400,000 worth during that time.

        Jury selection was completed Monday for the trial, expected to take two weeks. Also on trial are Jerome Harden, 18, Anthony Harden, 43, and Michael Jordan, 20. All the defendants are related.

        In her opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Voorhees said the three men were known to drive Mr. Burns around, help him cut up and package the cocaine during daily visits to a west Covington residence, and deliver drugs to customers.

        Those customers often sold the drugs to their own customers, she said.

        During this time, Mr. Burns “flashed thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars,” wore nice clothes and “was living the nice life,” Ms. Voorhees said.

        She promised that many witnesses would testify against him and verify that he was a major drug dealer.

        Mr. Burns' attorney, Ken Rylee of Covington, also made an opening statement.

        He stressed that many of the prosecution's witnesses had been arrested on drug-related charges before they decided to help law enforcers build a case against Mr. Burns.

        Northern Kentucky's Safe Streets Task Force — a unit made up of FBI agents, Covington and Newport police officers, and Kentucky State Police troopers — conducted the investigation that lasted more than a year.

        Mr. Rylee said task force investigators offered “get-out-of-jail-free cards” to build their case.

        “Everyone had a reason to save their own skin. Every witness has a motive to nail Antonio Burns,” he said.

        Mr. Burns was arrested a year ago today on a prior drug-trafficking charge from an August 1998 incident.

        He had been arrested in Covington with 16.8 grams (about half an ounce) of crack, a gun, and about $6,000 in cash.

        Mr. Burns pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of drug possession and was sentenced to three years' probation.


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