Drug trial begins for ex-LHS star, his brother

? A former Lawrence High School basketball star turned to selling drugs to make quick money, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday in a trial in U.S. District Court.

Maurice “Mo” Trotter could have earned $240 per week working at basketball camps or $5.15 an hour working at an athletic club, assistant U.S. Atty. Terra Morehead told jurors during her closing argument.

“Or, you could do a single drug transaction that takes literally seconds or minutes and make those amounts at the drop of a hat,” Morehead said.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin this morning in the trial of Trotter, a former standout at LHS and Illinois State University, and his younger brother, Mardell. The two are charged with a combined 12 counts, including conspiring to distribute crack cocaine, powder cocaine and marijuana within 1,000 feet of Kennedy, New York and Central Junior High schools.

Morehead said when that police served a search warrant in August 2004, they found $2,372 in cash on Maurice Trotter’s person and in his clothes at his home and more than $10,000 cash in Mardell Trotter’s possession. The case against them is based on a series of undercover buys through informants, drugs found in a storage locker, marked bills recovered after the search, and drugs found at three Lawrence homes: 338 Ind., 809 N.Y. and 1504 E. 21st Terrace.

But defense attorneys say the case relies on the word of unreliable witnesses – “four crackheads,” in the words of Maurice Trotter’s attorney, Melanie Morgan.

The key witness against the Trotters was Royce King, a Lawrence drug dealer who helped officers with the joint city-county Drug Enforcement Unit set up undercover buys.

Morgan called the controlled buys “not-so-controlled buys” and said it was possible that the drugs King delivered to police after them had come from his own stash.

Mardell Trotter’s attorney, Kirk Redmond of Lawrence, criticized police for allowing King to continue selling crack throughout Lawrence while he was working for them.

“I’d submit that’s just a perverse result,” he said.

He said King had a strong motive to lie about his dealings: the desire to stay out of prison.

“Who in this room believes Royce King?” Redmond asked jurors.

But Morehead argued that King never had large amounts of money and only dealt in small amounts of drugs when he was running errands for the Trotters.

“Royce King was their middleman. He was their flunky,” Morehead said. “He washed the cars. He cleaned up the house. He was someone they could keep under their thumb.”

Maurice Trotter graduated from LHS in 1992. During his senior year, he helped lead the team to a fourth-place finish in the Class 6A state tournament, and he said in a 1996 Journal-World interview that he had dreams of reaching the NBA.

Police began investigating the Trotters after complaints from residents in the Pinckney neighborhood that the duplex at 338 Ind. was a nuisance.

The brothers were arrested Aug. 6, 2004, after Lawrence Police executed a search warrant on the homes and the storage locker. Police said the search yielded 2 ounces of crack cocaine and 2 ounces of powder cocaine, worth up to $6,000. Police also seized a 9 mm handgun.

Maurice Trotter was 30 and Mardell Trotter was 29 at the time they were charged.