Two men accused of being the nation’s top drug traffickers in the 1980s were acquitted Friday of charges that they smuggled $2.1 billion in Colombian cocaine into the United States for 13 years.
The verdict stunned defendants Augusto “Willie” Falcon and Salvador “Sal” Magluta, who looked at each other in disbelief as the not guilty verdicts were announced on each of the 17 drug charges. If convicted, they could have faced life in prison.
The verdict also stunned prosecutors. “I can’t recall a case with this much evidence that was this well presented,” said U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey. “I am shocked by the result.”
Security was tight throughout the trial. Since Magluta and Falcon were indicted in 1991, two prosecution witnesses have been killed and two others wounded, though defense attorneys deny their clients were involved.