Feds Say Philly Label Head Was Drug Kingpin, Point to DVD as Evidence
The federal trial of Philadelphia record label head and promoter Alton Coles, who stands accused of distributing millions of dollars in cocaine, got under way on Wednesday (January 16). According to the Associated Press, in February 2007 prosecutors handed down a 194-count indictment against the head of Take Down Records, claiming that he moved $25 million in cocaine through the Delaware Valley and used the record label as a front for his illegal activity. In addition to weapons and drugs seized in raids on Coles home and the homes of his associates, the Feds will show jurors a 31-minute DVD called New Jack City: The Next Generation that depicts the defendant as a ruthless crack kingpin named Ace Capone. Coles’ attorney, Christopher Warren, denies that the role his client portrays in the film has any basis in reality and says that prosecutors are misinterpreting phone conversations that were recorded during the investigation. “It was an art film and it was imitating life—just not his life,” Warren told jurors. “Some of these conversations that the government says are so damning … is actually him discussing props. These are movies about the drug culture.” But the Feds disagree with Warren’s theory and say that Take Down Records was simply a shell company established to launder illegal funds from the drug trade. They even claim that Coles actually lost money on some of his legitimate ventures, such as a 2002 concert in Philly that featured Jay-Z and Beane Sigel. “When you look behind the storefront, there was nothing there—nothing except the drugs and the guns and the violence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bresnick remarked in his opening statement. The trial is estimated to last about two months.