Judge acquits Belleville man charged in drug conspiracy

News-DemocratMarch 12, 2014 

A judge decided the state did not prove its case against a Belleville man accused of criminal drug conspiracy on Tuesday and acquitted him.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida heard the prosecutors' case against Nelson McAlpine, who was accused of conspiring to purchase five ounces of cocaine from an undercover drug agent for distribution.

McAlpine was in the back seat of a car when the alleged drug buy occurred June 24 in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn in Fairview Heights.

McAlpine had been in the St. Clair County Jail for 210 days while awaiting trial before Haida issued the directed verdict. He was released Tuesday afternoon.

"I was surprised," defense attorney Patrick Sullivan of the verdict. "I was afraid for my client because I worried that the jury may find him guilty just by virtue of the fact that he was on trial. You can never say for sure what a jury will do."

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly declined to comment because two other co-defendants have pending trials.

To establish a case of conspiracy, the state must prove that two or more people intended to commit a crime, that they engaged in a common plan to accomplish the criminal goal and that an act was done by one or more of them to further the conspiracy, said Sullivan, of the county's public defender's office. Knowledge of a crime does not constitute conspiracy, Sullivan said.

McAlpine could have faced from nine to 40 years in prison, if he was convicted. McAlpine, 23, of Belleville, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Sullivan was on the phone Tuesday with Nelson's former boss at the Fairview Heights Burger King. Nelson had been fired after his arrest for failing to show up for work.

"I explained his situation and said if he came in with this story that it was true," Sullivan said. "They said they would give him his job back."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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