A suspended Spokane attorney testified Wednesday that cocaine addiction destroyed his marriage and law practice. At one point, he said, he believe he would be killed.
“I’ve lost everything, including my self-respect,” Howard Nichols told a jury in U.S. District Court.
Nichols, 43, a former deputy prosecutor, testified for the prosecution to avoid 10 years to life in prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Federal prosecutors say they will recommend Nichols serve 41 months in prison when he is sentenced later this month.
He testified Wednesday against two men charged in the Operation Doughboy cocaine conspiracy case.
Keith S. Young, of Electric City, Wash., and Eddie Tamiz Jr., of Pasco, are accused of supplying James Larsen and Clarence “Cip” Paulsen III with cocaine for distribution in Spokane.
Larsen and Paulsen were key figures in the cocaine ring.
“For five years, I was involved heavily in the use of cocaine,” Nichols told the jury. “The use of cocaine destroyed my law practice.”
Nichols said he often accepted cocaine instead of money from some clients he represented.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice asked Nichols if he considered himself a drug addict.
“I consider myself now an addict,” Nichols responded. “I didn’t then. I was lying to myself. I wasn’t seeing the shambles I was in.”
After a divorce, Nichols said he lost his car and house because of his cocaine habit.
“Some office furniture and a computer is all I had left” when he was arrested Aug. 16, he said.
Nichols said he got cocaine from Larsen and Paulsen, who have pleaded guilty in the conspiracy.
Paulsen hid his cocaine at two houses Nichols owned and asked the attorney to be a drug courier.
When Paulsen lost 2 kilograms of cocaine, worth $50,000, he blamed Nichols.
“I was scared,” Nichols said. “I believe that there were individuals that were going to kill me.”
He said that when he received a death-threat letter, he called the U.S. Attorney’s office, but didn’t pursue the matter.
Tamiz and Young are the only defendants in the conspiracy case who didn’t strike plea bargains. They may testify in their own defense before the trial ends next week.
Nichols was followed to the witness stand by John S. Drake, who told jurors he was a major drug-deal broker and drug user while working with kids as a drug counselor.
Drake, 42, said he started using cocaine in 1980 and by the mid-1980s was buying large amounts of drugs from Tamiz and Young.
Drake said he commonly made $1,000 to $1,200 by arranging with Young or Tamiz to supply Larsen with cocaine, sometimes 2 kilograms a month.
The counselor worked with high school students in Lincoln County or troubled youths at Morning Star Boys Ranch.
“Part of the job is to provide a `no (drug) use’ message to the kids,” Drake testified. He added that he never distributed cocaine to children.
“I was selling only to people who I thought could afford it and didn’t have an addiction,” he said.
Drake said he would buy kilograms of cocaine from Young and Drake, usually for about $25,000. A kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds.
While he was dealing drugs, Drake said he and Tamiz also were involved in a business venture with motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel to market golf clubs and helmets.