MAYVILLE - More than 20 individuals allegedly involved in a massive drug distribution network that funneled heroin into Jamestown are set to appear in court early next year.
On Monday at Chautauqua County Court, Judge Richard C. Kloch, of Niagara County, presided over the arraignment of 34 defendants busted last month in a multi-jurisdictional sting operation - code-named "Operation Horseback" - that netted 41 local individuals allegedly involved in heroin trafficking.
One by one, the defendants along with their attorneys appeared before Kloch and received the dates of their pre-trial hearings and trials.
All defendants were scheduled a pre-trial hearing for Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. at the county court.
Trial dates ranged from January to March of 2015.
According to Public Defender Nathaniel Barone, the defendants, who were all included in the same 159-count indictment, would benefit from having separate trials.
"For constitutional reasons, there's a number of issues that would force a defendant to be severed from the others for trial purposes," Barone said.
"You don't want to be sitting in trial with 45 other co-defendants all accused of a conspiracy ... just the appearance of them all together would imply a conspiracy. So constitutionally, (a group trial) would deny a person a fair trial."
Barone further indicated that many defendants will likely not need a trial at all.
"I would imagine most of these individuals will either plead out ... or there will be some type of motion to dismiss certain people," he said. "By the time it gets to the actual trial date, not many will be going to trial."
The following defendants were scheduled a Jan. 6 trial:
The following defendants were scheduled a Jan. 13 trial:
The following defendants were scheduled a Jan. 20 trial:
The following defendants were scheduled a Jan. 27 trial:
The following defendant was scheduled a Feb. 3 trial:
The following defendants were scheduled a Feb. 24 trial:
The following defendant was scheduled a March 10 trial:
The following defendants had their arraignment postponed because they or their attorney did not show up to court, or because of other legal issues:
"Operation Horseback" included several raids which were conducted simultaneously by agents of the Attorney General's Office, the New York State Police Department, the Jamestown Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Border Patrol. The arrests were made as part of a 159-count indictment unsealed on July 30 in Chautauqua County Supreme Court, in which 47 individuals were identified in affiliation with a massive drug-trafficking ring.
The investigation began slightly more than a year ago following a noticeable increase in drug-related crime, such as larceny and burglary, in Jamestown. Over the course of the investigation, a series of drug pipelines were discovered to be funneling heroin into the city from Buffalo, Philadelphia and New York City's Washington Heights. Following the execution of "Operation Horseback," more than 3,000 baggies of heroin with an estimated street value of $60,000, all intended for distribution in Jamestown, were seized.