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Mar
11
2003

United States v. Nguyen - DISMISSED IN TRIAL

Houston Chronicle

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2003


Government dismisses charges in Ecstasy case

Man released; 2 others await sentencing

 

By ROSANNA RUIZ

Houston Chronicle

 

The government dropped charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute Ecstasy against a Houston man during his second day on trial Tuesday - a move a defense attorney called rare.

            Toan Bao Nguyen, 22, was charged in November with a former Alief basketball coach Celeste Renee Scott, 24, and Sonia Lakiesha Brown, 26, who have pleaded guilty.

            Nguyen was expected to be released from custody late Tuesday, said Eric Wallenius, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal?s Service.

            "It seemed more prudent to bring the trial to a close and leave it to try another day, " Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Meehan said, adding that the dismissal does not indicate Nguyen?s guilt or innocence.

            Dan Cogdell, one of Nguyen?s attorneys, said the charges were the result of an inadequate investigation.

            "Three-fourths of the way through the government?s case, the government realized they filed charges they knew they could never prove," Cogdell said.

            "I think this was a case where leads should have been followed up on - a thorough investigation would have revealed he wasn't guilty."

            David Ryan, who also represented Nguyen, said such dismissals during a trial rarely occur. The dismissal, he said, shows the government accused an innocent man in its efforts to charge multiple defendants with a crime.

            Cogdell said the argued that his client never represented the Ecstasy pills to be authentic and had told a go-between they were fakes.

            Brown and Scott have pleased guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute Ecstasy, and will be sentenced June 14. Each could get 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

            The pair were accused of selling Ecstasy, and Scott was accused of discussing the sale of 1,000 pills to a confidential FBI source. The pair and others met with an FBI informant Nov. 6 and represented more that 700 pills to be Ecstasy. Tests showed the pills were not.