A confidential informant, testifying Tuesday on the opening day of the Fulton County Court trial of Aziza Lawal, said he bought crack cocaine from her twice on March 22, 2007.
The informant, whose name was ordered withheld by Judge Polly A. Hoye, said he met the 25-year-old Lawal both times at the Beacon Bubbles Laundromat on South Main Street, purchasing two small bags for $100 on the first transaction and $50 for a single bag two hours later.
Both times, the informant said, Lawal emerged from the Laundromat and led him to her tan Ford Taurus, where he said they sat and exchanged drugs for cash.
Lawal, a resident of Albany Street in Schenectady, claims she is a victim of mistaken identity and that she was not even in Gloversville that day.
The Schenectady Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been following her case, and chapter Vice President Fred Clark drove to the courthouse Monday for jury selection but said he was told he could not enter the courtroom.
The NAACP supports her contention that she was wrongly identified and is innocent.
Gloversville detectives, who followed the informant to the witness stand Tuesday, said they are confident in their identification of Lawal. They said the Taurus was rented in her name and added they also followed her back to her apartment after the encounter with the informant.
After her arrest in October, Lawal was indicted in December on six counts: two counts each of third-degree sale and third-degree possession of a controlled substance and two counts of misdemeanor possession.
The informant said he knew Lawal by her nickname, “T.”
Lawal’s attorney, Joseph Gardner of Schenectady, said while prosecutor James Riley makes the case sound “pretty simple and straightforward . . . [it] is not so simple.”
He reminded the jury the informant was working for police to try to reduce charges filed against his girlfriend and her daughter. “Carefully evaluate the credibility of the confidential informant,” Gardner told the jury, suggesting informants may “say anything the police tell them to say.”
Gardner said the detectives supervising the drug purchases all describe a black female, emphasizing the point that no one seemed to know the dealer.
“The issue is whether this is the person who committed the crime,” Gardner said, referring to Lawal.
The informant, whose name is being withheld because he is involved in other pending cases, testified that in a meeting with police after the transaction, detectives were “trying to ID her real name . . . they were going to look into it . . . what they could do to ID her.”
In court Tuesday, the informant spoke with certainty when he identified Lawal as the dealer, but upon questioning from Gardner he said he could not remember a number of details, including where he was when detectives took his statement, which detective took the statement and how many years he had served as an informant.
“You’re asking me to go back a year and a half and I don’t have the answers for you,” the informant told Gardner.
In his opening statement, Riley told the jury how the informant called detectives twice March 22 to report he was in a position to make a controlled buy from the woman known as T.
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Categories: Schenectady County