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Murders, drugs are focus as trial of 4 nears end

A Jamestown drug-trafficking trial involving death threats, two execution-style murders and at least 1,500 pounds of marijuana is nearing its conclusion in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara and the jury heard the completion of testimony Monday afternoon. The trial, focusing on the activities of a drug ring allegedly headed by Aaron B. Pike, began Jan. 19.

Pike, 28, and three other men are accused of trafficking in marijuana and methamphetamine in 2000 and 2001. Pike and a co-defendant, Gregory Pattison, 34, were convicted in state court last year of murdering two men in retaliation for the theft of 100 pounds of marijuana and $80,000 of the drug gang's cash.

Pike has been acting as his own attorney in the federal trial. Throughout the proceedings, he has readily admitted to jurors that he was a drug dealer. But he insists that the amount of drugs involved was less than suggested by government prosecutors.

Pike's group is accused of selling 3,000 pounds of marijuana and nine pounds of methamphetamine in Jamestown. Pike says the amount was closer to 1,500 pounds of marijuana and less than a pound of methamphetamine.

While testifying last week, Pike also denied having anything to do with murder.

"Did you ever tell [Pattison] to kill Richard Alicea Jr.?" Daniel J. Henry, an attorney appointed to assist Pike, asked him.

"No," Pike insisted.

Alicea, 19, and a friend, Johnny C. Houston, 22, were murdered in a car in the Town of Gerry in May 2001. Police allege that Pattison shot both men in the head because Alicea had stolen drugs and cash.

Pike blamed the killings on his California drug supplier, Daniel Diaz, 37, who took a plea deal and became a government witness. The stolen cash and pot belonged to Diaz, not him, Pike said, and Diaz threatened to kill Alicea after learning that the goods were missing.

"Danny, he was a hot head," Pike said. "I had no stake in any of that. This was Danny's [loss]."

Diaz was so angry that he left death threats on Alicea's answering machine, and a tape of the threats was played for the jury. Prosecutors said Diaz, Pike and Pattison -- the alleged triggerman -- were all responsible for the slayings.

Alicea's father, Richard Alicea Sr., is accused of helping Pike operate the drug ring. The elder Alicea has not been accused of taking part in his son's murder.

A fourth defendant, Matthew Harrison, 27, is accused of having a minimal role in the drug trafficking and no role in the killings.

All of the defendants are Jamestown residents. More than 30 people, many of them with ties to Jamestown's drug underworld, testified in the trial.

Pattison and Pike face lengthy state prison terms, regardless of the outcome of the trial.

Drug prosecutor Thomas S. Duszkiewicz said the U.S. Justice Department seriously considered pursuing the death penalty in the case before deciding against it.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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