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Attorney's heart attack brings mistrial for husband, not wife

A defense lawyer's heart attack forced a mistrial Friday in the federal drug case against local harness racer Hugh Stevens.

But U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny ruled that the trial of Sandra Jacobi, Stevens' wife and co-defendant, will resume Monday.

Angelo Musitano, Stevens' lawyer, suffered a heart attack Monday and was taken from the courthouse in an ambulance, Skretny said.

Musitano, 52, underwent heart bypass surgery Thursday in Buffalo General Hospital and is doing well, the judge said. A new trial for Stevens will be scheduled after Musitano recuperates.

Over the objections of Cheryl Meyers Buth, Jacobi's attorney, Skretny ruled that Jacobi's jury trial will continue next week. Jurors were instructed to ignore any testimony they have heard that involves only Stevens.

"I moved for a mistrial [for Jacobi] because the case has been on trial for three weeks, and the large majority of the proof the jury has heard was about Hugh Stevens," Buth said. "We were concerned that the evidence they've heard against Hugh Stevens could influence the jury."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz disagreed, arguing that Skretny's instructions to the jury will assure a fair trial for Jacobi.

Stevens, 62, a Scottish citizen who lives in Derby, is a well-known driver and trainer of harness racing horses. He and his 51-year-old wife are accused of smuggling and drug conspiracy counts filed in 2004.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents charge that Stevens smuggled drugs for a major methamphetamine ring that was dismantled after a series of arrests in Canada, Western New York and California. His wife is accused of assisting him. They deny the allegations.

Jacobi faces four felony counts: conspiring to possess ephedrine, which is used to make methamphetamine; conspiring to assist in the manufacture of methamphetamine; smuggling drugs; and conspiring to smuggle drugs.

Both Stevens and his wife are represented by court-appointed attorneys. Musitano is at least the sixth for Stevens since his indictment.

Witnesses in the trial, which began Sept. 12, have testified that Stevens was paid tens of thousands of dollars to smuggle drugs, and that he hired people in the local harness-racing community to help him, sometimes hiding the illegal cargo in horse trailers.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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