On October 22, 2001, police raided the home of 57-year-old Ann Colomb
in Church Point, Louisiana, and confiscated 72 grams of cocaine and a loaded pistol.
Colomb was arrested, although the drugs and gun were found in a guest room where her daughter, Jennifer, and soon-to-be husband, Timothy Price, were staying. Price told police the drugs were his and the gun belonged to his mother, who was a police officer, but he was ignored.
The raid was the culmination of what the Colomb family, who were African-American, claimed was a decade of harassment by the local police force, involving bogus traffic stops and false allegations of drug dealing.
According to authorities, an undercover informant wearing a wire had purchased cocaine the day before from Colomb, although no recording was every produced.
Although the raid was conducted by local authorities, the federal government stepped in and on May 15, 2002, Ann Colomb and three of her sons, Edward, 26, Danny Davis, 25, and Sammy Davis Jr., 32, were indicted on charges of running a massive cocaine selling operation out of their home. Most of the evidence was based on the testimony of 15 informants who said they had bought drugs from or sold drugs to the Colomb family.
The indictment alleged that over a decade, the Colomb family bought $15 million in drugs with a street value of more than $70 million, despite their outward appearance of a family working multiple jobs to earn a modest living.
Beginning in June 2004, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett L. Grayson, began receiving letters or telephone calls from individuals, almost all of whom were incarcerated in federal prisons, saying they had information concerning the Colomb family’s activities.
By the time the case was set to begin trial in September, 2004 in U.S. District Court in Lafayette, Louisiana, federal prosecutors said they had 16 more informants ready to testify, prompting a defense motion to bar their testimony.
U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon granted the motion and the prosecution appealed. On August 24, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit overruled Melancon and allowed the witnesses to testify.
The trial began in March 2006 and according to some of the early testimony, Edward Colomb and Danny Davis would have been buying about $500,000 worth wholesale crack cocaine a month in 1994 while both were still in high school. Both worked full-time jobs right out of high school—seemingly in defiance of the typical behavior of large scale drug dealers.
On the same day the trial began, Joe Mickel, another federal prosecutor in the same office that was prosecuting the Colomb case received a letter from an inmate in Texas complaining that he had wired $2,200 to the girlfriend of another inmate in exchange for documents from the Colomb case and photographs of the family.
The inmate, Quinn Alex, said he had paid for the documents—which were never delivered—so he could use them to testify against the Colomb family in exchange for time off his own sentence. The letter mentioned that other inmates were getting these documents and becoming witnesses against the defendants.
Alex demanded that the inmate be prosecuted for taking his money. Mickel recognized the more serious problem and notified the prosecutor in the Colomb case, who presented the letter to Tucker Melancon, the federal judge presiding over the trial.
Alex was brought in so that defense attorneys could question him, but he declined to answer their queries and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
A motion for mistrial was made and denied.
On March 31, 2006, the defendants were convicted of conspiracy and other drug charges.
Defense motions for new trial led to a hearing in August at which the defense presented evidence from four witnesses that confirmed what the defense had long believed—that the jailhouse testimony was fabricated. On August 31, 2006, Judge Melancon set aside the convictions for all four defendants and on December 14, 2006, the charges were dismissed.
– Maurice Possley