American Airlines baggage handler, Victor Bourne, created a network of fellow corrupt airline employees to smuggle cocaine into the United States through JFK Airport. Mr. Bourne and his co-conspirators used their knowledge of the aircraft to secrete their illegal cargo in a variety of cavities within the planes.
While the other defendants confessed to their crimes and took pleas, Mr. Bourne chose to fight his accusers and to testify in his defense. He must have assumed that his credibility in describing the complex environment of airplanes and airports would acquit him. WRONG!
Bad luck for Defendant Bourne because he was assigned the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis as his trial judge. Judge Garaufis knows aviation. He was FAA Chief Counsel for a number of years. Consequently, when the Judge reviewed the testimony and evidence in Mr. Bourne’s case, the man sitting on the bench KNEW what was going on; no obfuscation would work on the judge. Based on his insights, he found:
“You personally exacerbated one of this nation’s greatest blights.”
His Honor observed the conspirators had dismantled an airplane wing to remove hidden drugs. By definition the airplane was unairworthy and by virtue of these unskilled “repairs”, the aircraft could have crashed. Judge Garaufis found that the defendant had perjured himself. The Judge imposed “an unusually harsh punishment” of life imprisonment in an effort to deter others from committing such acts.
Good job, Judge Garaufis!
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