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Judge Denies New Trial for Four Henley Co-Defendants

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A federal judge denied a new trial Thursday for four men who claimed juror misconduct after they were convicted, along with former Ram cornerback Darryl Henley, of running a cross-country cocaine trafficking ring.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Taylor said the evidence against the defendants was “so overwhelming that the jury would have reached the same results” even though a juror discussed taking a $50,000 bribe to vote not guilty on behalf of Henley and Rex Henley, the athlete’s uncle and co-defendant in the drug case.

“In the face of the evidence presented, no reasonable jurors could have reached different verdicts,” Taylor stated in a written ruling.

The judge’s decision represents a clear victory for Assistant U.S. Attys. John C. Rayburn Jr. and Deirdre Z. Eliot, the prosecutors in the case, who had argued strenuously against a new trial. If Taylor had ruled differently, prosecutors would have had to start from scratch to retry the case.

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Rayburn said Thursday that the government “has had every confidence that Judge Taylor would discover the true facts behind the allegations. . . . The judge has properly resolved the motion for a new trial.”

At least one defense attorney said he plans to appeal Taylor’s decision.

“There was overwhelming reason of juror misconduct, and the judge should have clearly granted the motion for a new trial,” said James Waltz, a Laguna Hills attorney for co-defendant Garey West.

West, Rex Henley and two other co-defendants, Willie McGowan and Rafael Bustamante, filed a motion for a new trial in May 1995, claiming that one of the jurors, Bryan Quihuis, discussed the possibility of taking a $50,000 bribe to change his vote. Their petition also alleged that another juror expressed racial prejudice, decided early in the case that the defendants were guilty and discussed the case frequently while carpooling to court.

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Darryl Henley later joined the co-defendants’ petition.

In a guilty plea to jury bribery charges, a dismissed juror in the cocaine trafficking case described how he and Henley plotted to bribe a sitting juror and to fabricate allegations of jury tampering to win the athlete a new trial.

Taylor also was considering the ex-football player’s request for a new trial but disqualified himself from the case after federal agents alleged that Henley had plotted from his jail cell to kill the judge and Tracy Donaho, an ex-Ram cheerleader who testified against the athlete at his 1995 trial.

A federal judge in Los Angeles is now considering Henley’s request for a new trial.

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Taylor is expected to set a sentencing date for the four men soon. All face at least 10 years in prison. Bustamante and West, who have prior drug convictions, face additional time.


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