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Jacobi guilty of drug smuggling

The wife of a local harness racer was convicted of three felony charges and acquitted of a fourth late Friday after a narcotics smuggling trial at U.S. District Court.

Sandra Jacobi, 51, of Derby, will be sentenced on Feb. 3 for helping her husband, Hugh Stevens, transport shipments of drugs for a major methamphetamine ring.

Jurors found her guilty of one smuggling charge and two conspiracy charges. She was acquitted of conspiring to manufacture illegal drugs.

Jacobi and Stevens, 62, were charged by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents during a 2004 roundup of dozens of methamphetamine suspects in Western New York, Canada and California.

Several people who were involved in local harness racing with Stevens took plea deals and testified as prosecution witnesses in the trial before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

The two assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case, Thomas S. Duszkiewicz and Michael DiGiacomo, said Jacobi's own words -- picked up on a DEA wiretap -- sealed her fate.

"The tapes made it very clear that she knew what her husband doing, knew how much money he was being paid and was actively assisting him," Duszkiewicz said.

The trial began Sept. 12 and closing arguments were heard Thursday afternoon. Jacobi, who was taken to jail in handcuffs after the verdict, did not testify.

Both Stevens and Jacobi were defendants when the trial began, but Skretny declared a mistrial for Stevens on Oct. 3, four days after Stevens' defense lawyer suffered a heart attack in court.

Cheryl Meyers Buth, who represented Jacobi, tried to convince jurors that, if Stevens was smuggling drugs, Jacobi was unaware of it.

"There was so much evidence about what her husband was doing that I think the jury had to assume [Jacobi] was involved, too," Buth said.

But prosecutors said a tape that was made in July 2004 left little doubt that Jacobi was well aware of the illegal activity.

DEA agents made the tape after a harness racer from Batavia was arrested with 430 pounds of ephedrine in his horse trailer. The racer, Louis Russo, testified during the trial that Stevens hired him and loaded the ephedrine into his trailer.

"Soon after that arrest, Hugh Stevens called his wife and said, 'They got him,' " DiGiacomo said. "And, after a bit of conversation, Jacobi said, 'They got it all?' "

Another witness testified that Jacobi recruited her to make deliveries for Stevens, the prosecutor said.

Under federal law, Jacobi could face 25 years or more in federal prison, but under advisory sentencing guidelines, her prison term is expected to be shorter.

Stevens will face trial later, after his attorney, Angelo Musitano, recovers from heart bypass surgery.


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