Jay Regas -- #28492-048

Life in Prison -- Cocaine Conspiracy

Jay Regas, prisoner of the drug war
I am a sixty-year-old grandfather of five and father of five young-adults, ranging in ages from 24 to 40. We are a close knit family who operate family businesses where we all work together. Some of us live together and we all play together, but now I am in the United States Prison in Lompoc, California, serving a life sentence without parole.

After an eleven-and-half month trial, I was convicted of being the king-pin of the one-hundred-and-sixty-million dollar, Regas Drug Organization, (the government's name for us) without ever having been observed in any criminal activity, without my name or voice heard on any tapes, without having any records of drug activities, without any weapons, without assets, money or any drugs.

I was the bar manager at a family owned legal brothel in Nevada. I lived in a rented home and did not even own a car. My son Troy (who was one of my codefendants) and I were the only ones of any of the twenty-two government's witnesses or our eight other co-defendants, who maintained employment and a lifestyle justifying our work, during the ten-year life of the conspiracy we were indicted for.

The evidence against me was based only on the testimony of admitted drug dealers and manufacturers that became government witnesses, who did not have jobs, did have surveillance of criminal activity, their voices and names were in tape conversations, they did have records of drug activities, weapons, plenty of money, drugs and opulent assets to boot. They were all, except for one, allowed to keep their assets and their freedom for their cooperation with the government.

One of the witnesses committed ten felonies while assisting the government during our eleven-and-half month trial; an arson, home evasion, kidnapping, extortion, battery - some of these felonies were committed with a weapon (he was on federal probation at the time for being an ex-felon with a firearm). He also committed a false burglary of his own home by which he embezzled ninety thousand dollars from his insurance company that the government allowed him to keep along with his assets and continued his freedom.

Another witness, a Mexican illegal, testified he and I met in a Chinese restaurant, where I offered to front him three-hundred kilograms of cocaine. During cross-examination we discovered at the time of my alleged offer, he was a drug addict with nowhere to live, did not have a phone, a car and he was running around barefoot. For his testimony the government, gave him money, bought him clothes, he and one of the case agents went on a government paid vacation to Hawaii together and he was allowed to remain in our country. I was given credit for the hearsay three-hundred kilograms of cocaine at sentencing that I allegedly offered to front to this shoeless, homeless person in a Chinese restaurant where I hear the food is bad.

Jay Regas with his family
There is an interesting story about all of the government's witnesses, that range from a tall-tale of one knowing the identity of the "Green River Killer," (still an unsolved case) to one of them trying to sell an endangered species fish he caught to a mayor of a small Louisiana town. I can fill a book with it. One more time, all of the government's witnesses had one thing in common, they were all, except the one, rewarded financially, or with their freedom, or both.

During an eleven-and-half month trial, many unusual things take place. The most bizarre was the "state of mind testimony." Two of our codefendants were incarcerated for earlier cases which they had plead guilty to. The government brought witnesses into our courtroom to testify about those codefendants previous crimes, to show their "state of mind," that these codefendants could do this type of crime we were being tried for. One of those codefendant's was found not-guilty in our case.

I was held without bail and it was a year before the trial began. I never dreamed I would be found guilty. I only knew and associated with five of the witnesses against me -- but all the rest knew me. I also knew some of those people I was associating with were drug manufactures and dealers. I, like most Nevadans, have a "live and let live" philosophy. I knew drug agents were not always honest in their efforts to arrest suspects and in our case they lied to a magistrate to get a search warrant. The case agents also went to our defense witnesses and by threat and intimidation tried to keep our witnesses off the stand. If a defendant was to do that he would have additional charges for threatening a government witness and obstruction of justice. I thought at least prosecutors would have integrity and honor. I thought the Court would protect a defendant's rights. I knew the Constitution would protect my rights through appeal. Not only have I been sentenced to prison for the rest of my life, I have been given a rude lesson on the state of our justice system and the people who work within it.

The children's mother was arrested and charged with jury tampering for attempting to distribute "Jury Rights" literature (a First Amendment Right, freedom of speech) during our trial on the courthouse property. A charge the government, thank God, eventually dropped.

We were prosecuted by a zealous federal attorney, who was called a "loose cannon" by an American Bar Association publication and there was prosecutorial misconduct throughout our trial.

If there was a bright spot to all of this, during the forfeiture portion of the trial, the jury awarded me 95% of my property which was seized. The only items forfeited were so old I could no longer prove where or how I purchased them. It has never been established what I did with the alleged drug proceeds and at sentencing I was not fined - rather unusual.

During jury deliberations, the jury asked for clarification on a jury instruction. They wanted to know, if to find us guilty of the conspiracy, would the conspiracy's life, have to meet the ten-year letter of the indictment? They were told they could find us guilty for any portion within the ten-year life in the indictment. No codefendant was found guilty of any substantive count after 1984, midway through the ten year life of the conspiracy. It would seem that the jury felt the conspiracy ended then. At sentencing I was sentenced to the letter of the indictment, making my sentence new law and more sever, instead of old law which it would be using the last substantive act in 1984.