The adult son of a former New Orleans Police Officer was found guilty on Felony Drug Charges by a jury in his trial.
The United States Attorney’s office said the conviction comes amidst a widespread investigation involving misconduct into the United States Drug Enforcement agency who had arrested the suspect.
The 40 year old male, Lazandy Daniels, of St. Roch, sat through a three day trial before being found guilty in a Federal court on multiple counts of distribution and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack, acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans' office announced Thursday in a public press release.
The sentence for his conviction could be as long as twenty years to life including fines.
Daniel's Attorney’s have pressed forward to undermine the integrity of the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, stating the arrest itself should be null and invalid.
In December of 2015, at a Super 8 Motel in New Orleans East, DEA agents raided the motel where Daniel's was staying. In official court records, Daniels claims the investigation was led by a Special Agent Justin Moran, a former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office deputy and member of the DEA's New Orleans drug task force who was stripped of his badge late last year amid a probe into alleged misconduct by the task force.
The defense claims that due to the officer's conduct and being stripped of his badge that the arrest should be considered invalid and thrown out entirely thus the drug dealer walking free on all charges.
In open court, the Prosecution says Daniels rendezvoused with others including drug dealers and customers at the hotel off Chef Menteur Highway including with a man named Craig James. After the DEA Agents were tipped off by a confidential informant, federal agents tracked James via GPS-monitoring of his cell phone while he was driving to New Orleans from Houston on Dec. 2, 2015.
The Drug Enforcement Administration allege that James arrived at the motel to collect money from Daniels, who fronted cocaine to other dealers in the area, records state.
Also present at the motel that day were two other men Joppa Jackson and Leon Jackson Jr. Both are described in court records as drug buyers. Agents then encountered Jackson Jr. in the motel parking lot, allegedly after witnessing a money transaction, then began to raid the motel room.
After kicking down the motel door, Federal Agents say that both Daniels and James were present inside the motel room with around $280,000 in cash, 180 grams of cocaine stuffed in a trashcan in the room, and several pieces of equipment used for measuring and packaging. Daniels was discovered "sitting fully-clothed on the toilet inside the bathroom," allegedly trying to flush evidence, records state.
After Federal Agents stormed the room all four men were arrested and faced felony drug charges. Three of them, Daniels, James and Jackson Jr., filed a motion to have a federal judge disclose the identity of the DEA's confidential informant, which the judge refused to do.
Records show all of the men except Daniels agreed to plea deals with former U.S. Attorney Ken Polite's office. Daniels went to trial.
Nearly two weeks before his conviction Wednesday, Daniels' attorney, Robert J. Pastor, filed a motion in the court dismiss the criminal case based on the involvement of Special Agent Moran in the investigation. Pastor wrote that "a number of Agents besides Agt. Moran are facing disciplinary actions, including criminal charges, and that he understood federal authorities had to some degree peeled back from pursuing cases where Moran had been the lead investigator.”
Pastor's motion echoes a civil suit filed by Daniels on June 2 against acting U.S. Attorney Evans and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Long, which seeks $2 million in damages for "emotional stress" related to the criminal charges leveled against him. In his suit, Daniels wrote that "prosecutors are proceeding to trial with a case despite a pending federal corruption investigation into misconduct with the New Orleans Office of the DEA."
"The primary DEA special agent which resides over my case has been stripped of his gun and badge, and issued a grand jury subpoena," Daniels wrote.
Daniels Attorney Pastor declined over the phone Friday night to go into detail on his client's past criminal or civil cases, or the potential implications of the investigation into the DEA task force. Calls made to Long and Duane's office were not answered Friday night.
However the lingering cloud of internal probes hang over the investigation into the Drug Enforcement Agency, these men will likely seek to appeal the decision based upon the misconduct of the officer involved in the arrest.
Two of the former task force members and Tangipahoa deputies, Karl E. Newman and Johnny Domingue, face criminal charges related to their activities with the DEA, records show. They are scheduled for a hearing in federal court on June 22.