Federal court trials are unusual, and acquittals in those trials are even rarer.
An Ontario truck driver transporting orange juice to Florida beat the odds Friday when a jury in U.S. District Court in Buffalo found him not guilty of smuggling drugs across the border.
Lawyers for Andrew A. Woolcock, of Brampton, argued during the trial that someone else must have planted the drugs in his tractor-trailer, and they presented documents showing there was plenty of opportunity for that to happen.
“The documents proved the orange juice delivery had been scheduled four days before," said Kimberly A. Schechter, an assistant federal public defender.
During the trial, Schechter and fellow public defender Daniel Greene tried to make the case that, yes, Woolcock owned the tractor-trailer, but, no, he was not the one who hid drugs inside the truck.
The drugs, about 5,000 pills containing the psychedelic tryptamine, were stored in zip-lock plastic bags and hidden behind a panel near the fuse box in Woolcock’s truck.
Schechter presented a series of documents, including manifests, logs and invoices, to show there were several opportunities for someone else to plant the drugs without her client’s knowledge.
She also argued that, unless the prosecution could prove Woolcock knowingly and intentionally took part in smuggling the drugs into the U.S., the jury should find him not guilty.
A jury acquitted Woolcock of each of three felony counts against him, including the smuggling charge.
Federal prosecutors declined to comment on Woolcock’s acquittal, but during the trial, they presented a series of witnesses, including agents with the Department of Homeland Security, who testified about finding the illegal drugs in Woolcock’s truck.
The government, in court papers filed before the trial, also pointed to a previous drug investigation involving Woolcock – Canadian law enforcement investigated him in 2009 – but acknowledged the probe never resulted in a conviction.