- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - A New York City police officer became an invaluable member of a drug organization when he agreed to provide protection and be the driver as he and a childhood friend delivered as much as 88 pounds of cocaine, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay urged Manhattan federal court jurors to convict Merlin Alston on conspiracy to distribute drugs and illegal weapons charges.

“He took the great power given to him as a police officer and abused it,” McKay said, adding that Alston became known to several drug dealers as someone to be trusted. “They knew this was not a cop who was going to bust them. They knew he was on their team.”

He said Alston, who is now suspended and being held without bail, was a driver and bodyguard for a friend who began dealing marijuana in 2008 before turning to cocaine deals within a year.

McKay said Alston sometimes spoke in code to the friend, who cooperated with the government and provided key testimony against him.

A defense lawyer, Jeffery Greco, called the witness an ex-friend of his client and said the government’s case was weak because it relied on the testimony of a liar trying to earn leniency in his own drug case.

“It could not have been more rehearsed if he was at an awards show or reading from a teleprompter,” Greco said of the witness.

He said Alston, who was arrested in December 2014, received no money from the drug organization.

“He helps deliver drugs that could land him in prison for life and he doesn’t get a penny?” Greco said, questioning the logic of the government’s case.

“They know that this case has holes everywhere. It’s a sinking ship,” he said.

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