To hear Casey Geter tell it, all she did was drive her friend to the gas station. True, the friend sold some cocaine once she got there, but all Geter got for her effort was gas money.
BUT ACCORDING to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Tara Mooney, prosecuting Geter in court last week, Geter knew in advance about the drug deal and would be rewarded with cocaine for herself, afterward.
And under the law in Virginia, said Mooney, "What she did makes her just as responsible and just as guilty as the one who did the drug deal."
In the end, a jury of eight men and four women agreed with Mooney and, last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, found Geter guilty of distribution of cocaine. The jurors also recommended she be sentenced to five years in prison and, in September, she'll learn her fate.
The crime occurred Oct. 27, 2005, at the Sunoco station at Stone Road and Route 29 in Centreville. Police arrested two Centreville women and a Washington, D.C., man and now all three have been brought to justice.
They are Nakasha Tionna Warren, 29, of 14486 Four Chimney Drive in the Newgate community; Casey Yvette Geter, 36, of 6016 Havener House Way, also in Newgate; and Marron F. Nowlin, 24, of 13th Place S.E., in the District.
Geter's friend — the actual, hand-to-hand drug dealer — was Warren. She pleaded guilty to one count of cocaine distribution, Feb. 6, before Judge Stanley Klein. On April 20, he sentenced her to 15 months in prison (six years, with four years and nine months suspended).
Nowlin — who was charged with one count of distribution of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon — had a jury trial in June on the drug-distribution charge. He was convicted June 23, and the jury recommended he serve seven years behind bars. He'll be sentenced Sept. 22 by Judge Terrence Ney. He's slated for an Aug. 15 jury trial on the weapons charge.
GETER'S JURY trial played out last Monday-Wednesday, July 31-Aug. 2. She pleaded not guilty but, in Mooney's opening statement, the prosecutor told the jurors, "This is a case about three people who worked together to sell crack cocaine. They came to a pre-arranged drug deal, and this woman drove them."
Defense attorney Michael Davis, however, said the whole time the drug transaction was going on in the gas station ladies' room, his client was busily searching for the gas cap to the vehicle she'd driven there. He said she'd been to that station earlier that day and had lost it then. He said Geter had no knowledge that a drug deal was going to happen, nor did she receive any of the monetary proceeds from it.
A bevy of police detectives with the Street Crimes Unit then testified about the specifics of what happened, that night. Since they were all operating undercover, and continue to do so, Centre View cannot reveal their identities.
Unbeknownst to Warren, Geter and Nowlin, the first detective to take the stand had actually set up the drug deal in hopes of arresting the dealers. "I'd arranged through a confidential informant [C/I] to buy some crack cocaine from Nakasha Warren," he explained. "The deal was supposed to be for $400 of crack cocaine."
He said Warren suggested the Sunoco station as the meeting place and the deal occurred around 9 p.m. "At least two calls were made between the C/I and Warren to set up the drug buy," he said. "The C/I was in the front seat of my vehicle. Warren came up to the passenger window, said hello to the C/I and we exchanged greetings."
HE SAID the C/I had no drugs or money of his/her own on his/her person prior to the transaction. But earlier, he'd provided this individual with county "Buy Funds" — money he'd previously Xeroxed so he could read the serial numbers on each bill. He then marked his copy of each one with the date, his name and badge number.
Warren and this person then walked into the restroom for the drug buy. Meanwhile, the detective said he saw Geter and Nowlin walking around the gas station. "Both seemed to be watching the parking lot very carefully and the cars coming and going." He became alarmed when Geter looked into the vehicle of another undercover officer, also at that station.
He testified that the C/I carried out two drug purchases with Warren, returning to his vehicle each time with suspected crack cocaine. The first time, it arrived in four little baggies, and the second time it was rolled up inside a paper towel. He said both amounts later tested positive for cocaine, and he identified Geter in court.
Davis asked him if he ever saw Geter on a cell phone, honking her horn, giving an arm signal or wave, going into the building or otherwise trying to communicate with Warren. The detective answered no to each question.
Then Davis asked him why he'd ordered Geter to be arrested, too. "I believed she was involved in the deal, certainly as a lookout," he replied. "They arrived together. I felt there was probable cause to arrest her, based on the fact that a drug deal had just gone down."
"When she arrived on the lot, you didn't have any preconceived notion to arrest her?" asked Davis. "No," answered the detective. "I didn't expect Warren to arrive with other people."
When he added that people arriving at a drug deal in the same vehicle as the dealer are usually involved in the deal, too, Mooney asked him to explain this statement further.
"I'VE BEEN on thousands of drug deals, and dealers often bring others with them for a variety of reasons — protection, lookouts, security so they don't get ripped off," he replied. "They could [even] be their supplier."
Then the detective whose car Geter and Nowlin had scrutinized took the stand. He said his function that night was "to be the second set of eyes" for the first detective's safety and "to observe other vehicles coming in and out" of the gas station.
He said two people got out of Warren's Jeep SUV and, "at one point, I saw the female look directly in my direction and point out the path that I'd traveled [to get there]. They actually circled my vehicle twice and looked into it. I pretended to be arguing with someone on a cell phone and avoided making eye contact with them."
He said Geter, Warren and Nowlin all went inside the gas station's convenience store when the deal was done, and he went inside, too, and bought a soda. "They never purchased anything in the store or anything at the gas pumps," said the detective. "I watched the car back out with all three of them in it and, as soon as I saw them exiting toward Route 29, I gave the signal for the arrest."
Before then, this detective had been parked at a gas pump and, in answer to a question from Davis, he said Geter was "pretty much watching the exits and entrances of the [gas station's] lot." Davis asked if Geter was on a cell phone, passed a note or gave a hand signal or gesture to Warren inside the building, and the detective said no.
A third detective testified that several undercover officers in vehicles participated in the actual arrest. "As [the SUV] pulled out, I got in front of it on Lee Highway, stopped and slowly backed up into [it]," he said. "At the same time, another vehicle pinned them in from behind, so there'd be no high-speed pursuit."
GETER WAS driving, Warren was in the passenger seat and Nowlin was in the back. "He wasn't complying with any of our commands," said the detective. "We were yelling, 'Fairfax County police; let us see your hands! Don't move!' He kept trying to reach down to the floorboard on the passenger side where there was a 9-mm, loaded handgun."
But all three were eventually arrested, without injury. A fourth detective, who'd questioned Geter afterward, said she'd admitted driving the SUV, even though she didn't have a license. "I asked did she know they were going to sell drugs that night?" he said. "She said she did, but wasn't involved." He said Geter told him Warren gave her $30 for gas.
Under questioning from Davis, the detective said Geter told him she was looking around the station for a lost gas cap, but he didn't believe her. "Did you do anything to see if it was on the car or if anyone had found it?" asked Davis. "I did not," replied the detective. "I put more emphasis on the eyewitness report of a detective than someone who I thought was involved in a drug case."
Warren, who doesn't drive, testified that Geter drove her to D.C. to pick up her [Warren's] boyfriend, Nowlin. She also said Geter drove her to pick up some cocaine and, while Geter drove, she [Warren] made drug deals on her cell phone. And she admitted selling the cocaine in the bathroom.
"You told me that my client didn't know about this drug deal," said Davis. "I don't know if she knew," answered Warren. "I assumed she did because of my past history and because she heard me talking."
On the stand, Geter maintained that she was looking for the gas cap. "I was gesturing [to Nowlin], "If you look on this end, I'll look on that end," she said. Geter then said Nowlin found it and "it was all bent up, but he took a screwdriver and fixed it so it would work."
She admitted being convicted of forgery and passing bad checks in 1998-99. But she denied receiving cocaine from Warren and said she hadn't used cocaine in four or five years. However, a fifth detective said Warren told him that she, Nowlin and Geter had all smoked cocaine together that night, prior to the drug deal in Centreville.