John DeLorean Trial: 1984
Top-notch Lawyer, Witness Sensation
Defendant: John DeLorean
Crime Charged: Drug trafficking
Chief Defense Lawyers: Howard Weitzman, Donald Re
Chief Prosecutors: James P. Walsh Jr, Robert Parry
Judge: Robert Takasugi
Place: Los Angeles, California
Date of Trial: April 18-August 16, 1984
Verdict: Not guilty
SIGNIFICANCE: Dubious government witnesses and the ethics of "sting" operations in general were on trial as much as the defendant in this high-profile drug case.
In 1982 John DeLorean was popularly viewed as one of the auto industry's most charismatic figures. He was handsome and dashing, and the independent motor company that he had founded and which bore his name was lauded as a brave attempt to take on the Detroit "big guys." But on Wall Street it was a different story: whispers of DeLorean's financial difficulties were rampant, centered on the increasing problems at his Northern Ireland factory, and few expected the company to remain solvent for long. No one, though, was prepared for the stunning events of October 19.
That was the day when DeLorean was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with conspiracy to distribute $24 million worth of cocaine. Federal officials were cock-a-hoop, crowing that more than 100 hours of audio and video surveillance had culminated in the 57-year-old automaker being caught on tape accepting a coke delivery from undercover cops.
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