Federal cocaine and weapons case defendant didn’t fake his death - The Buffalo News

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Federal cocaine and weapons case defendant didn’t fake his death

John C. Smith is indeed dead.

The federal prosecutor who suggested the convicted drug dealer and former Afro Dogs motorcycle club president might have faked his demise informed the court today that he now believes Smith is deceased.

“Agents have had the opportunity to interview several individuals involved in the alleged heart attack,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz told the court.

“So Mr. Smith is dead?” asked U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Duszkiewicz answered yes.

The government’s acknowledgement of Smith’s death did little to temper the reaction of his former defense lawyer.

“I consider the government’s actions to be reckless and irresponsible,” Joseph J. Terranova told Arcara.

Terranova said the government’s insistence that Smith – the alleged ringleader of a cocaine operation that had ties to City Hall and included members of the Afro Dogs motorcycle club – might still be alive caused immense heartache for his family.

“They would like some closure to this,” he said.

Arcara responded by signing an order officially dismissing the federal indictment against Smith, who was awaiting sentencing on a drug and weapons conviction when he passed away in June.

He was president of the local Afro Dogs club and vice president of the national club.

The question of whether Smith was dead or alive arose in August when Duszkiewicz asked Arcara for more time to investigate his death and possibly exhume his body.

He said today that the government’s request was based on conflicting reports by medical personnel who treated the heart attack victim.

One of those reports suggested the man who died was not wearing an ankle bracelet as Smith was supposed to be wearing.

“There had been differing reports about his height, weight and his electronic monitoring device,” Duszkiewicz said.

Terranova, at the time, described the government’s request as frivolous and said he had a death certificate to prove his client had passed away.

Smith eventually admitted his guilt in the Afro Dogs case – he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm – and was awaiting sentencing when he died June 16 at age 54.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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