Unwilling to risk a possible life term if convicted by a jury, former federal prosecutor Donald Ferguson on Monday became the fourth lawyer to plead guilty to illegally aiding the Cali, a Colombia drug cartel.
During an appearance before U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, Ferguson, 48, admitted to obstructing justice and laundering money. He entered the plea against the advice of his lawyer, Neil Sonnett.
“I had a very different view of the evidence,” Sonnett said. “This case has essentially broken his will. He was looking at the prospect of a lengthy, very expensive trial.”
Ferguson’s plea deal means another witness is available to prosecutors who hope to convict more than 50 people charged in one of the biggest drug cases ever brought in South Florida.
The indictment names the top leaders of the Cali Cartel, Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela. Most important, prosecutors can use Ferguson to testify against Washington attorney Michael Abbell and Miami attorney William Moran, the only remaining American lawyers out of a group of six who were targeted in the case.
Abbell is a former high-ranking Justice Department official who specializes in extradition matters and who worked for cartel figures since 1985. Moran has been a criminal defense lawyer for 30 years. No trial date has been set.
“If Donald Ferguson tells the truth, we have nothing to worry about,” said Miami attorney Roy Black, who represents Abbell.