Suspended Buffalo Police Officer Reginald Peete is on trial in U.S. District Court on charges of distributing less than one gram of cocaine.
But when his trial opened Monday, former Officer Harvey Robinson was the focus of testimony. Specifically, questions were asked about Robinson's deal with the FBI that turned him into an informant against Peete and several other police officers.
Robinson participated in negotiations for two drug deals involving 1,280 grams of the drug -- but saved himself from a lengthy prison term by providing the FBI with information.
Peete, 29, is the last of five defendants to face prosecution in "Operation Bluecoat," an undercover drug investigation conducted by the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office.
He is accused of on-duty drug dealing. Peete's attorney, John Molloy, tried to turn the jury's attention away from that charge and toward Robinson's deal with the FBI as the trial began before U.S. District Judge John T. Elfvin.
Molloy attempted to portray Robinson as an opportunist who "enjoyed" taking part in major drug negotiations and then saved himself by turning against some of his closest friends on the force.
"Reginald Peete has been on the police force for seven or eight years. He's been a good police officer, which is more than I can say for Harvey Robinson," Molloy said during an opening statement.
Robinson is scheduled to testify as a prosecution witness when the trial resumes Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephan Baczynski said testimony and FBI tape recordings will show that Peete and his former partner, Jon McKelvin, got cocaine for Robinson in May 1989 and delivered it to him in their patrol car.
The two officers got the cocaine to Robinson even though the engine of their patrol car was smoking and they had to leave their precinct without permission to do it, Baczynski told the jury.
McKelvin, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a cocaine distribution charge, testified that he alone made the arrangements to deliver cocaine to Robinson, without Peete's knowledge. Baczynski questioned how Peete could not have heard drug arrangements being made a few feet away from him in the patrol car.
During the testimony of FBI Special Agent Kenneth Callahan, the coordinator of the "Bluecoat" probe, it was revealed that Robinson agreed to become an informant against fellow officers after the FBI snared him in a sting investigation involving more than a kilogram of cocaine.
An FBI agent posing as a drug dealer caught Robinson volunteering to assist in the delivery and protection fopr deals inmvolving 10 ounces and 2.2 pounds of cocaine during March and April 1989 Callahan said.
Thge FBI 'detained" Robinson after catching himin the sting but agreed not to arrest him after he became their "Bluecoat" informant, Callahan told Molloy.
Later, when Robinson approached McKelvin and Peete in their patrol car to ask if they could get him some cocaine, Peete said, "Yes, we could," Callahan testified.
Robinson, who resigned from the force late last year, pleaded guilty late Monday to attempting to distribute cocaine. Noting his help in the "Bluecoat" probe, Baczynski asked Elfvin to sentence him to no more than six months in prison.