Detroit— A missing juror in a major narcotics trial who went AWOL around the same time the fez-wearing drug defendants disappeared resurfaced Wednesday to explain his absence.
Juror David McIntosh of Detroit admitted he failed to call court officials and emphasized his disappearance was unrelated to three drug dealers who jumped bond and triggered a nationwide manhunt.
“I was sick,” McIntosh, 48, told U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy during a brief hearing in federal court that drew an unusually large crowd of court staff and summer interns who had followed the high-profile drug case.
Murphy had ordered the runaway juror to come to court and explain why he failed to attend closing arguments and deliberations in the case against drug dealer Carlos Powell, one of the biggest drug dealers in Metro Detroit history, and three others.
McIntosh’s disappearance deepened the mystery surrounding the search for Powell, his brother and friend Earnest Proge, who jumped bond before the jury returned guilty verdicts.
McIntosh had a tense confrontation with federal drug agents outside Murphy’s courtroom.
In the hallway, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Edward Donovan asked McIntosh whether he had any contact with Powell or the other defendants.
“I swear ... there wasn’t,” said McIntosh, who according to a public records database and The News’ archives, worked as a Comerica Park beer vendor as recently as 2006.
Murphy calmly questioned the juror about his absence. His demeanor was a stark contrast to May 12 when he learned the three drug dealers had fled ahead of guilty verdicts that could send the trio to prison for the rest of their lives.
Last month, the judge was red-faced and demanded answers from defense lawyers and prosecutors. On Wednesday, Murphy rubbed his temples before having McIntosh answer questions under oath.
“I was sick (May 7) and didn’t call until Monday,” McIntosh told the judge.
“You knew you had been sworn in as a juror,” the judge said. “I guess I’m curious why you didn’t call us?”
“I was at my girlfriend’s house and didn’t have my (court) papers with me,” McIntosh said. “I didn’t want her involved.”
Murphy asked whether anyone influenced him to stop serving as a juror.
“No sir,” McIntosh said.
The judge admonished McIntosh and warned him against failing to complete jury service in the future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Gabel stood up and asked a more pointed question.
He wanted McIntosh to confirm no one approached him to discuss the case or influence him.
“Was there any outside contact?” the judge asked.
“Sir, I had no contact with any of those people or anyone affiliated with them,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh’s absence May 8 delayed the start of closing arguments and triggered a search by court officials.
McIntosh could not be found and failed to show up on May 9 or May 12. That’s the day jurors reached guilty verdicts against the three drug dealers and a fourth man, former state Rep. Kenneth Daniels.
When Carlos Powell, 39, of Washington Township, learned there was a verdict, court officials said he cut his ankle tether and disappeared.
The Powell brothers and Proge were released on bond in 2012 despite a history of running from police, violating probation or committing crimes while free on bond. Federal prosecutors did not ask a judge to jail Carlos Powell, the drug kingpin, or request temporary detention.
The three men wore fezzes to court each day.
The men said they were members of the Moorish Science Temple of America. One court filing, on Moorish Science Temple of America letterhead, alleged the Powell brothers were not subject to U.S. laws and offered to pay money to settle the criminal charges. The judge dismissed the letter as frivolous.