'Rock House' Witness Says He Is Hiding Out in Fear for Life

Times Staff Writer

The prosecution's key witness in a case against the owner of three suspected "rock houses" in Pacoima testified Wednesday that he has been hiding out for a week because he fears the defendant has ordered him killed.

The witness also implicated the defendant's brother, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, by saying he saw the officer sell cocaine at one of the houses.

Antonio King, 32, of Pacoima, said the word on the streets of Pacoima is that Jeffrey A. Bryant has "put a contract out on me" for testifying against him at a preliminary hearing in Van Nuys Municipal Court.

Bryant, 33, said through his attorney, Barry Hammond, that the allegation is "ridiculous."

King said he has been hiding in Los Angeles because he fears for his life. Los Angeles Police Detective James Dumelle said King has been placed under police protection.

During three days of testimony, King said he witnessed drug sales at one of Bryant's houses, was present when Bryant was processing cocaine for sale and accompanied him to Oceanside to purchase cocaine.

King also testified that he was present at one of Bryant's houses in June when Bryant's brother, Ely, a sheriff's deputy, sold cocaine to a customer who had come to the door. Ely Bryant accompanied King and Jeffrey Bryant to Oceanside in 1984, King said, and drove the car home because, "If he gets stopped with dope on him, all he does is show a badge."

Sheriff's Probe

The Sheriff's Department conducted an internal investigation earlier this year into allegations that Ely Bryant, 31, who is assigned to County Jail, sold or plotted to sell drugs to inmates. However, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said Wednesday that the investigation was completed and that Ely Bryant, who had been assigned to an administrative post in the interim, has returned to his duties at the jail.

Sheriff's Capt. Bill Hinkle said his department was unable to confirm allegations against Ely Bryant during its internal investigation, but will follow Jeffrey Bryant's preliminary hearing to see if any new information about the deputy is presented.

Ely Bryant, who was in the courtroom Wednesday, refused to comment on King's testimony. Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen A. Marcus said his office has no immediate plans to file criminal charges against Ely Bryant.

Defense attorney Hammond has attempted to discredit King by pointing out that he is awaiting trial on a burglary charge and has a felony conviction for forgery. King admitted under cross-examination by Hammond that he has sold marijuana to inmates in state prison and in County Jail.

Hammond also asserted that King is lying about the Bryants in exchange for a promise from the district attorney to go light on him in his burglary case. Under questioning by Hammond, King said prosecutor Marcus had promised to "see what he could do" with King's burglary case, which is pending in San Fernando Superior Court.

First Such Case

The case against Jeffrey Bryant marks the first time that Los Angeles County officials have attempted to prosecute the owner of a building used as a cocaine "rock house," so named because cocaine is processed and sold there in rocklike clumps.

Bryant's three houses were raided five times by Los Angeles police and sheriff's deputies, but Bryant was not present during any of the raids. He is being prosecuted as the absentee landlord.

During those raids, investigators confiscated $32,000 in cash and four pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $182,000, Dumelle said.

Bryant is charged with two counts of conspiracy to sell cocaine, one count of possessing cocaine for sale and six counts of knowingly maintaining a house where cocaine was sold.

The preliminary hearing, which began Oct. 8, is expected to conclude early next week. At that time, Judge Kenneth Lee Chotiner will rule on whether the prosecutor has presented enough evidence to send the case to Superior Court for trial.

Bryant is being held in County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail.

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