Jurors began deliberating Friday in the Keith Foster drug-trafficking trial after the prosecution portrayed the former deputy police chief of Fresno as a corrupt law enforcement official.
After deliberating 3 1/2 hours, no verdict was reached and the jury was dismissed for the day around 1:50 p.m. Jurors will resume deliberations Tuesday morning.
In rebuttal to Foster’s claim of innocence, prosecutor Duce Rice told the federal jury Foster dealt drugs because he needed money for “his expensive divorce.”
Foster was so deep in debt he had to borrow money from a subordinate, Rice said.
Foster, 53, faces eight felony charges in connection with three alleged conspiracies to peddle heroin, marijuana and oxycodone. He was arrested in March 2015.
If convicted Foster faces at least 25 years in prison.
The case against Foster is built on wiretaps and surveillance by FBI agents. Prosecutors Rice and Melanie Alsworth contend the wiretaps prove Foster was engaged in drug trafficking.
Foster and his attorney, E. Marshall Hodgkins, contend Foster was collecting information about drug dealing to turn over to narcotics officers.
Both sides gave closing arguments Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fresno. Because prosecutors have the burden to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they got a rebuttal argument before the jury began deliberations.
The trial in Judge Anthony Ishii’s courtroom has high stakes because Foster turned down a plea agreement that would have resulted in four years in prison. All six co-defendants – including two of his nephews – accepted plea deals, leaving Foster to stand trial alone.
Prosecutors contend Foster was trafficking in marijuana with his nephew Denny Foster, selling oxycodone to his other nephew, Randy Flowers, and trafficking heroin with Rafael Guzman Jr.
Foster and attorney Hodgkins stipulated Foster was talking about buying drugs on the wiretaps. But Foster testified he was collecting information from the co-defendants to turn over to narcotics detectives.
In the prosecution’s closing arguments, Alsworth said two sides of Foster emerged in the trial: the respected deputy chief who has done good things for the Fresno community, and the drug dealer who was caught on wiretaps engaging in heroin, marijuana and oxycondone sales.
Alsworth implored the jury: “You can’t let sympathy interfere with the facts of this case.”
The prosecutor said Foster’s defense – that he was collecting information for detectives – isn’t true. She also said “the Fresno Police Department is not in the business of selling drugs for profit.”
But Hodgkins, in his closing arguments, said the case against Foster was built on flimsy circumstantial evidence since no one witnessed Foster selling drugs.
There was nothing in Foster’s home to indicate he’s a drug dealer, such as scales, illegal drugs or an indoor marijuana grow, the attorney said.
To convict Foster, Hodgkins told the jury they would have to conclude that Foster “went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde” and threw away nearly 30 years of stellar police work and his chance to be Fresno’s next police chief.