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Federal Trial Begins for Accused Drug Smugglers, Arrested After Chase Across St. Thomas in 2021

Federal authorities recovered parcels of cocaine at the end of a cross-island chase and arrest of two accused smugglers. Their trial began Monday. (Shutterstock)

Jury selection began Monday for two men accused of hauling 210 kilograms of cocaine across St. Thomas while evading a police traffic stop. District Court Chief Judge Robert Molloy was prepared to hear opening arguments at the end of picking jurors for the case of USA v. Russell Robinson and Trevor Stephen.

Robinson and Stephen are charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and also charged with cocaine possession. If convicted at trial, the pair face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison. That prospect has a special significance for Robinson, who has a prior conviction for marijuana trafficking and money laundering conspiracy from 2005.

The pair is accused of being the occupants of a truck seen picking up parcels from a vessel spotted by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents as it traveled without lights at night from St. John to Vessup Bay on Nov. 29, 2021. Documents filed in the case by the Drug Enforcement Agency said their officers, along with agents from the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, were summoned to pursue the Toyota Tundra truck as it left St. Thomas’ East End around 10 p.m. that night.

According to a statement by the arresting officer, the truck fled a traffic stop staged in the Charlotte Amalie area and headed north toward Hull Bay. A chase by law enforcement ensued, ending when the truck and its occupants turned down a one-way road leading to a dead end, court documents said.

Prior to the start of trial, Robinson filed a motion to invalidate his prior conviction; Molloy denied the motion on Friday. The judge also rejected a motion to dismiss the federal indictment filed in the current case on Dec. 17, 2021.

Also on Friday, U.S. Attorney Delia Smith submitted a list of 10 witnesses her team of prosecutors is expected to question at trial. The list includes agents from Customs, Homeland Security and the DEA.

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