A Norcross man has been convicted of multiple drug trafficking charges after a trial that required an anonymous jury, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office said.
Rigoberto Garcia, 32, has been convicted of conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, trafficking methamphetamine, trafficking cocaine, trafficking heroin and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to serve four life sentences plus 35 years in prison.
Prosecutors asked for the jurors’ identities to be protected after Garcia’s girlfriend was seen taking photos in the courtroom during a March 2017 trial. They also found Garcia had provided the woman with personal information about the jurors, the DA’s office said. After that was discovered, a mistrial was declared. Garcia’s conviction came Friday after a new trial.
Garcia was first arrested on drug trafficking charges in August 2015 by the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. Garcia was part of a drug trafficking organization and was living under an “assumed identity” to avoid arrest on charges in South Carolina, the DA’s office said.
In October 2018, Garcia was awaiting retrial at the Gwinnett County Detention Center. The DA’s office learned through listening to jail phone calls that Garcia and another inmate had drilled a hole in a visitation booth. They intended to use the hole to smuggle meth, heroin and marijuana into the jail.
Prosecutors also learned that Garcia sent a script to his girlfriend to use in trial testimony. As recently as three weeks before trial, Garcia distributed photos of witnesses scheduled to testify and told associates to “teach [them] a lesson,” prosecutors argued in a pre-trial hearing. Garcia admitted to distributing the photos but denied using threatening language. Because of this and the issues with the previous trial, Judge Karen Beyers allowed for an “anonymous jury.” That prevented Garcia from learning the identities of the jurors in the trial.
The trial began Sept. 9, with Garcia representing himself. One witness testified that Garcia had provided him with 2 kg of meth “every 2 to 4 days,” according to the DA’s office. A search of Garcia’s apartment after the original 2015 arrest yielded “trafficking amounts” of meth, cocaine and heroin along with a gun loaded with “armor-piercing bullets,” the DA’s office said. Garcia argued that the drugs and weapons were planted by law enforcement.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts after the five-day trial concluded.
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