Trial postponed in case of former investigative consultant accused of helping smuggle drugs into Weld County Jail – Greeley Tribune

GREELEY, CO – APRIL 06: The Weld County Courthouse is seen in downtown Greeley on April 6, 2022. (Alex McIntyre/Staff Photographer)

The trial of a former investigative consultant accused of providing methamphetamine and fentanyl to an inmate during professional visits to smuggle into the Weld County Jail has been postponed until early next year.

Laura Tellers, 52, is now set to stand trial starting on January 6 after miscommunication in delivering evidence to the prosecution and conflicts over the availability of a key witness made the original July 22 start date untenable. The trial was also extended from seven days to 10 days.

“I think this case presents unusual circumstances both in terms of the factual nature and complexity,” Weld Judge Vincente Vigil said. “So I think additional time is warranted to prepare the state’s case.”

Tellers appeared before Vigil on Tuesday for a pretrial readiness conference to lay out a handful of pretrial details. After more than an hour of discussion about outstanding motions and other hang-ups, Deputy District Attorney Michael Pirraglia shifted focus to why their case would not be ready by July 22.

Teller’s phone was seized when she was arrested in November. In a hearing in December, Vigil demanded the production of additional phone records, beyond what can be accessed by a basic phone extraction report — which includes some call and text data, as well as calendar appointments and other information.

Pirraglia said the additional phone records — which show a more complete call and text history — will help fill in gaps left by the extraction report.

Prosecutors obtained the recovery report from Teller’s phone Tuesday at the start of the hearing. The file was 23 gigabytes, and Pirraglia said it would likely take weeks to comb through it all.

“We’re less than two weeks before the trial, and we don’t have the time to go through it,” Pirraglia said. “If it’s going to take at least a couple of weeks to do a deep dive, I don’t know how we could go forward.”

Prosecutors still haven’t received the additional phone records, though neither Pirraglia nor Vigil knew exactly why.

“They just seem to have been overlooked in this process,” Pirraglia said.

The other main issue with going to trial this month was the availability of a witness, who would not be available for a deposition sometime in the next four months due to personal reasons.

Defense lawyer Lee Christian argued that the request to postpone the trial now was not timely and that if prosecutors knew they would need closer to a month to review all these documents, they should have filed a motion weeks ago. He also argued that the longer the case drags on, the longer the Tellers will be out of work.

“Miss. Tellers is not guilty and she’s starving to death because of this case,” Christian said. “… We’re at the same disadvantage. Just because they’re going to be uncomfortable with this doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

The Tellers were arrested Nov. 17 on suspicion of two counts each of conspiracy to distribute drugs and knowingly introducing contraband, following a nearly month-long investigation. She pleaded not guilty to all charges at a February 13 status conference.

Police say the Tellers provided 28-year-old Marquise Daniels with meth and fentanyl in documents addressed to him during professional visits. Daniels would then use rubber bands to strap the drugs to himself and smuggle them back into the jail, according to Teller’s arrest affidavit.

Tellers worked for Sedlak Law, which represented Daniels in a murder case. She has since been removed from the Sedlak Law website’s staff list.

Through an informant, police learned Daniels would broker the deals from inside the Weld County Jail, according to law enforcement records. Then, several different people would pick up the drugs from 27-year-old Ethen Butts — who was in a Lakewood Intervention Community Correction Services facility — and either drop them off or send them to Teller’s Fort Collins address, according to the affidavit.

Daniels told the informant that the Tellers would bring 2 ounces of meth and 200 suspected fentanyl pills at a time, police allege. The informant said the pills that came in the latest shipment the Tellers brought on Sept. 28 were very strong — to the point that inmates overdosed on just a quarter of a pill.

Christian has insisted on Teller’s innocence throughout the trial, saying she never communicated with anyone in an attempt to get drugs into the Weld County Jail. In a hearing in December, he called the informant a “jail howler, whom the Tellers have never spoken to.”

In a resignation letter filed in February, Christian said the informant fabricated the story because he knew offering police information about another case — whether true or not — would be his best chance for a reduced sentence for the crimes he faced.

“Unable to post bail, he devised a plan to get out of jail and avoid responsibility for his cases,” Christian wrote.

He also noted that Tellers was willing to cooperate with the investigation before her arrest, but police made no attempt to contact her.

Daniels overdosed in his cell on Oct. 4 and had to be revived with Narcan. He was found with meth and fentanyl in his cell a week later, on Oct. 11, according to arrest records.

Daniels has been in the Weld jail since January 2021 in connection with the December 2020 slaying of Blaire McQueen. Daniels – and McKenzie Prader – lived with McQueen for a short time in 2020, before moving out in the months leading up to December. On Dec. 18, Daniels and Prader broke into McQueen’s house to steal something in retaliation for speakers they believed McQueen had stolen, according to police.

McQueen was found dead in a back room of his home later that morning.

Prader was found guilty of aggravated robbery, first-degree assault with a fatality and accessory to a Class 1 felony. She was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison.

Daniels originally had a trial scheduled for late last year, but it was postponed after Teller’s arrest. He has a motion hearing on August 16 in Weld district court.

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