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After Fentanyl Death Trial Ortega Got 30 Years, Josephina Marine Pled, Anastrozole in MDC

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 3  -  In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on December 16, 2022 Billy Ortega was brought in by US Marshals and pleaded not guilty to his role in the death by fentanyl laced cocaine of Julia Ghahramani, 26, a first-year lawyer at Akin Gump, Ross Mtangi, 40, a trading executive at Credit Suisse Group AG, and Amanda Scher, 36, a social worker.

  There were four family members in the gallery, where Inner City Press was the only media.

   District Judge Ronnie Abrams asked about recently provided discovery, in advance of the trial scheduled for January 18. The Assistant US Attorney replied that some phones had only recently been accessed; there are many text messages on them.

The defendant's opening argument on January 19 triggered a US Attorney's Office request for a curative instruction - and their request to unseal Ortega's CJA affidavit, citing Inner City Press' win in US v. Avenatti, 550 F. Supp. 3d 36 (SDNY 2021). Meanwhile the same Office is consenting by taking no position to the secrecy of Sam Bankman-Fried's co-signers.

The trial ended on January 30 before noon with a verdict of guilty on all counts. Judge Abrams asked everyone to stand out of respect for the jury. Everyone did - except Billy Ortega. He is set to be sentenced with a 25 year mandatory minimum.

On September 28, for the October 4 sentencing, the US wrote in that "A Sentence of Life Imprisonment Is Appropriate."

In October, he was sentenced: "Defendant Billy Ortega (1) was found guilty on Count(s) 1ss, 2ss-4ss, 5ss, after a plea of not guilty. Count(s) Any open counts are dismissed on the motion of the United States. IMPRISONMENT: 300 months on each of Counts 1-4 to run concurrent to one another to be followed by a consecutive term of 60 months on Count Five. - The court makes the following recommendations to the Bureau of Prisons: Mr. Ortega requests to be detained at the MDC while his appeal is pending. It is respectfully requested that he be designated to Fort Dix or a facility in or near New York. - The defendant is remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal.  (Signed by Judge Ronnie Abrams on 10/6/2023)"

On April 6, co-defendant Josephina Marine was before Judge Abrams, with a new lawyer. Inner City Press was in the courtroom, the only media there. First from the docket, then the color: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Ronnie Abrams: Status Conference as to Josefina Marine held on 4/6/2023. AUSA Micah Fergenson present. Defendant (4) Josefina Marine present with attorney John Russo. Spanish interpreter Humberto Garcia present. A status conference is scheduled for June 29, 2023 at 2:30 p.m. Time is excluded from 4/6/23 to 6/29/23. (Status Conference set for 6/29/2023 at 02:30 PM before Judge Ronnie Abrams)."k

 On April 13, Judge Abrams denied Josefina Marine's request to move back into her NYCHA apartment, after the US Attorney's Office opposed it, arguing that "it should go without saying that Marine should not be permitted to return to the publicly subsidized NYCHA apartment she used as an instrumentality for drug trafficking." Judge Abrams said, "Motion denied, for the reasons stated by the Government in its opposition letter."

 Also in the gallery were five people - two groups of two, and one sitting alone. Marine's new lawyer said outgoing counsel provided only an empty flash drive. So he'll put forward a 1 terabyte drive, and agree to the protective order. He said a plea offer was made; the AUSA said, Not a formal offer, just contours.

On October 30, 2023, Josefina Marine pled Guilty of Lesser Offense as to Count 1 and "ORDER as to Josefina Marine: ORDERED that the defendant's bail is revoked and she is remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal's Service. (Signed by Judge Ronnie Abrams on 10/30/2023)."

On November 3, after an inquiry by Judge Abrams, the US wrote in to say Marine "has now received both her blood pressure medication as well as Anastrozole."

Back on February 24, co-defendant William Drayton asked for five years. He grew up in the Fulton housing projects in Chelsea; his father worked for the U.S. Army then U.S. Postal Service then died "in an alcohol-inducted stupor" when William was 18 years old.

On March 3, the US Attorney's Office on Drayton asked for 70 to 87 months.

On March 10, Judge Abrams sentenced Drayton to 78 months: "JUDGMENT In A Criminal Case (S1 22-Cr-91-03). Date of Imposition of Judgment: 3/10/2023. Defendant William Drayton (3) pleaded guilty to Count(s) 1s. Count(s) Underlying Indictment is dismissed on the motion of the United States. IMPRISONMENT: 78 months. - The defendant is remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal. SUPERVISED RELEASE: 5 Years. Standard Conditions of Supervision (See page 4 of Judgment). Special Conditions of Supervision (See page 5 of Judgment). ASSESSMENT: $100.00, due immediately. (Signed by Judge Ronnie Abrams on 3/10/2023)."

 Inner City Press will stay on the case.

Back on January 13, Judge Abrams held the final pre-trial conference in Courtroom 110 where the trial will be. Inner City Press was there. Judge Abrams ruled on a number of motions in limine, asking the prosecution why they couldn't redact information about Ortega being behind on child support from one of their exhibits; she asked the defense to consider, before trial, who Ortega allegedly being a family man would be relevant and not an invitation to nullification, like a mention of the sentenced - 25 years mandatory - that he faces.

On January 16, one of Ortega's lawyers filed a memo alleging, with exhibits, that Kaylen "Rainer who is now a government cooperator... who is HIV positive prostitutes himself with inmates at the MDC without the knowledge of the inmates of Rainey's HIV status" and "sells fentanyl laced marijuana and synthetic heroin at the MDC." The allegation is that the US Attorney's Office has never looked into this, or spoken with letter-writer Jonathan DeLaura - who has been subpoenaed.

On January 17, after a barely redacted copy of the memo and letter(s) went into the docket, the US Attorney's Office filed opposition to DeLaura testifying, and seeking to exclude from cross examination of Rainer any reference to the allegations he spreads HIV in the MDC, calling it "inflammatory."

On January 18, while jury selection was proceeding in Courtroom 110, Billy Ortega's lawyer put in another letter, that "I met with Jonathan DeLaura at the MDC today. DeLaura states that he first met Rainey at the MDC in Brooklyn in 12/2021, or 1/2022, and thereafter spoke with Rainey about the events continued in DeLaura's letter, or observed those events until 8/2022, a period of 8 months." So what if anthing will he be allowed to testify about?

On January 20, the US put another of Ortega's customers on the stand, under subpoena. He got an immunity deal. He testified about buying cocaine from Ortega - somehow he didn't know if it was powder or crack - and then being texted to not use a particular packet, it would be swapped out.

  Dawn Florio asked if he took any of the cocaine that was recalled. No he said, otherwise I might not be here. Bernard Seidler objected, but Judge Abrams said, one lawyer at a time. Florio get the second half of the response stricken.

  He said after Billy Ortega a/k/a Jason a/k/a J, a friend of his friend Phil, stopped answering his texts, he found another dealer or "delivery service," by a woman named Mils.

On January 23, Rainey was on the stand. He described delivering cocaine to 37 Warren Street and 232 Elizabeth Street. He said he kept $100 a day, and delivered the profits to Josefina, "Billy's mother." A NYCHA floor plan of 431 West 17th Street, Apartment 4E was shown. The drug safe was in the closet.

After Rainey was taken out in detention back to the MDC, after the jury left, talk turned to Ms. White, represented by Federal Defenders. One of Ortega's lawyers insisted White wants to speak with him or Ortega without Federal Defenders present, and that while he insists no ethical violation has taken place, even if it had, he should be punished, not Ortega.

On January 24, Rainey on cross acknowledged texting "Booty" about his gun (which he said was Billy's). Rainey liked a customer Amanda at 50 East 8th Street, also sold at 185 Avenue B and 303 Lexington, as well as New Jersey.

At the end, the US Attorney's Office asked to speak with Rainey's lawyer about logistics and Rainey's safety. The charge conference will be January 26 after court, with closings on January 27, when Judge Abrams has a sentencing. Ms. Maurice "Reese" Whyte remains up in the air - counsel, escorting ex-doctor Hadden on Worth Street on January 24, had referred to a proffer. But was it this one?

On January 25, Ortega's counsel completed her cross of Rainey. She asked him if he prefers men (yes) and if he prostituted himself in the MDC (no). He asked if he called a co-defendant "Daddy." There was an objection, sustained on relevance grounds.

After running again through the addresses of the deliveries, she asked, You don't know if they had other suppliers, do you? No, was the answer.

On January 26, Billy Ortega's counsel who submitted the letters about Rainey argued that the prosecutors were trying in essence to amend the indictment, by adding in the conduct and acts of others. He cited a 1990 case from the 11th Circuit, which he said was directly on point, cited 160 times without opposition, and two Second Circuit cases he said were less on point. Judge Abrams asked for the citations.

On January 27 after the US closing argument, Ortega's counsel argued that it had impermissibly said it didn't matter if the fentanyl came from Ortega. Judge Abrams repeatedly asked if the defense is arguing that even if Ortega sent Rainey to deliver drugs, if Rainey got the fenantyl from another, must Ortega be found not guilty. The prosecution said, repeatedly, no. Countdown toward verdict...

Inner City Press will continue to cover the case.

The case is US v. Ortega, et al., 22-cr-91 (Abrams)



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