After three days of hearing evidence in a St. Thomas courtroom, and after taking a day to consider what they saw and heard, a federal jury found accused drug smuggler Trevor Stephen guilty on Monday. Federal enforcement agents testifying in the case identified Stephen as one of the people seen picking up parcels from a motor vessel pulling up to the shoreline on an east-end beach and loading them into a pickup truck.
He was also identified as one of two men arrested at the end of a cross-island car chase by law enforcement that also hauled in 210 kilograms of cocaine. Stephen was originally charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
The incident leading to the arrest of Stephen and another man, Russell Robinson, occurred Nov. 29, 2021. Neither Stephen nor his lawyers denied he was the person seen in a photo displayed to a jury in District Court, moments after his arrest on St. Thomas’ Northside.
But the defendant told the court he did not know what was in the packages that he, Russell, and another — unidentified — man picked up from the vessel they met at Vessup Bay Beach. Stephen also claimed he was forced at gunpoint to retrieve the packages and load them into the truck driven by Robinson.
Every action taken by suspects was caught on a surveillance camera operated by a Customs and Border Patrol Air Enforcement Agent. The claim of coercion was contested by Robinson, who began the trial alongside Stephen.
Robinson told the court he was the one who acted under duress, being pressured by someone else. Prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department never identified the third man whose image appeared on camera during the Vessup Bay encounter. That individual was later seen leaving the vehicle in a residential area a few miles away.
As the trial began Robinson was allowed to present his own legal defense, aided by an appointed attorney. Proceedings paused during Day Two of the trial when Stephen sat silently, refusing to testify or to put on his own defense.
A motion for a mistrial declaration came from Robinson; Chief District Court Judge Robert Molloy granted the motion, but attorney Matthew Campbell representing Stephen said his client wished to continue. When the jury returned from a break in the proceedings, the judge told them Russell was no longer a defendant in the case.
The trial for the remaining drug smuggling defendant resumed and saw Stephen take the witness stand to present his side of the story. He said he met Robinson near the Cyril E. King Airport and parked his vehicle there, getting into a truck Robinson drove. They traveled to the east end beach; within a few minutes, he said he saw a vessel pull up to the shoreline. One moment later, a third individual appeared on the scene.
The three transferred packages from the boat to the truck then got in and took off, driving west. After making one stop to let the unnamed person get out, the truck and the remaining occupants drove toward Charlotte Amalie. Near the Havensight cruise ship facility, Stephen said, they spotted some vehicles forming a roadblock. Russell took a sharp turn and sped off, he told the court.
With the vehicles at the roadblock in pursuit, the pair traveled north at high speed. As the truck reached Hull Bay, Stephen said it turned up a road and stopped a distance away. There, he was directed to get out of the truck and get rid of the packages.
The truck then turned and headed back towards the main roadway where enforcement officers from the DEA, the FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations were waiting. Robinson and Stephen were taken into custody, and the discarded packages were collected and tested for the presence of drugs.
Now that the jury has rendered a verdict, Stephen faces sentencing. Molly scheduled a sentencing hearing for Oct. 27 at 9:30 a.m. in the main courtroom at the Ron de Lugo Federal Building. After hearing arguments from the government and defense attorneys, Molloy is expected to review the presentencing reports and pronounce a sentence of between five- to 40 years in prison.