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Henley Says He Didn’t Know of Jury-Bribing Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former Ram cornerback Darryl Henley testified Thursday he knew nothing of an alleged effort to bribe jurors during his cocaine trafficking trial last year and did not tell the judge about an ex-juror’s report that panelists were discussing the case before the start of deliberations.

“It was surprising. It surprised me that they talked about the case,” said Henley, speaking softly and wearing a green, prison-issue Windbreaker.

Henley, convicted with four others last March of running a nationwide drug operation, took the witness stand in U.S. District Court for the first time since he was charged in 1993. His testimony opened a planned two-day court hearing into a defense bid for a new trial, based in part on allegations that jurors discussed the case while under order not to do so.

Henley’s lawyers also contend their client did not receive a fair trial because of the alleged bribe attempt and jury misconduct that included racist comments against blacks and drug use by one of the jurors.

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Federal prosecutors contend that Henley took part in a bribe offer to swing the jury to acquittal and suggested in court Thursday that he orchestrated the allegations of jury misconduct after he was convicted.

“He’s lying about the bribery, and he’s lying about the other [allegations],” Assistant U.S. Atty. John C. Rayburn said during the hearing.

Henley said the ex-juror, Michael D. Malachowski of San Bernardino, showed up unexpectedly at Henley’s home in Brea just before the trial ended last March. The two discussed football and the possibility of setting up a sports-card show in Hesperia, Henley said. As Malachowski was leaving, he told Henley that jurors were discussing the case, despite the judge’s instructions to wait until deliberations to talk about it, Henley said.

Malachowski did not elaborate on the reported juror discussions and Henley did not press for details, Henley testified. Henley said the visit struck him as “weird” and the next day told defense lawyer Roger Cossack about the discussions. He said Malachowski made no mention of racist comments or the alleged bribe effort.

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But Henley said no one told U.S. District Judge Gary L. Taylor about the possible misconduct.

“My mind never got as far as Judge Taylor and what he might do or think,” Henley said.

The question of how much Henley knew and when he knew it is crucial to his bid for a new trial. Prosecutors have said Henley surrendered his right to a new trial by not reporting the alleged juror misconduct before the trial ended in conviction.

The effort for a new trial is the latest chapter in a high-profile case that took its strangest turn after all five defendants, including Henley’s uncle, were convicted on charges that carry mandatory prison sentences of at least 10 years. Nearly a month after the trial, juror Brian Quihuis told the judge that Malachowski had offered him $50,000 from Henley to vote not guilty.

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Malachowski, who is under indictment on jury-tampering charges, said it was Quihuis who sought the bribe in exchange for his vote. Malachowski served on the jury only a few weeks before he was excused for technical reasons.

In addition to the alleged bribery, Henley’s lawyers charge that Quihuis and another juror discussed the case while car-pooling with Malachowski and that the third juror made racial slurs. Henley and three other defendants are black. The defense charges that Quihuis used methamphetamines during the trial and lied about his drug use during jury selection.

An attorney representing Henley during the new trial bid said the former football player did not know of the alleged tampering. “This suggestion did not come from Mr. Henley,” attorney Stephen M. Hogg said outside court. “He was not the instigator in the bribery discussion.”

But prosecutors played taped segments of several of Henley’s telephone conversations from prison that they maintain show he knew about the bribery scheme and suggest he helped orchestrate false allegations of jury misconduct to win a new trial or freedom.

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During one exchange on the night of his conviction, Henley urged a friend and business associate to “jump on it. . . . You remember what we [were] going to do with them people out of town.” Rayburn said that referred to Malachowski.

In other conversations shortly after the conviction, Henley referred obliquely to “things” that were underway to get him out of prison. In court, Henley said he did not know what “things” he was talking about.


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