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Police Erred in Big Pot Case, Lawyer Says


After bedding his friend's girlfriend, Gregory Gagelonia meandered onto his friend's stoop for a smoke on July 16, 2005. Then his life changed.

Gagelonia, aka Jerome White, an athletically built 6-foot-4, 260-pound native of Kingston, Jamaica, was puffing on a Black & Mild cigar when a police officer dressed as a postal worker arrived at his friend's Henrico County home with a package.

The big, unmarked box contained 15 pounds of marijuana.

Gagelonia swears he didn't know what was inside the box. So he signed for it, he says, and went about his business. Ten minutes later, police barged in and arrested him. Today he's behind bars in a Henrico County Jail, serving 11 years for felony possession with intent to distribute the marijuana he says wasn't his. He was convicted in April.

Gagelonia's life is mysterious enough. He says he was working as a marketing director at a radio station in New York and would visit his "common-law wife" in Richmond frequently. Gagelonia admits that he smokes pot; police even found a scale with marijuana residue on it in the hotel room where he was staying.

But two key pieces of evidence establish that Gagelonia knew what was inside the package delivered to his friend's house, Henrico Police say. They weren't introduced at trial. And now the evidence is missing.

A police videotape that allegedly shows Gagelonia chasing after the undercover postal carrier to inquire about the status of the package is nowhere to be found. And the cell phones of Gagelonia and his friend, which allegedly prove that Gagelonia called his friend and told him a package was being delivered to his place? Gone.

"I've never seen a case where two items of physical evidence that would indisputably clear up the conflicting testimony disappeared," says Tony Spencer, the attorney Gagelonia hired after his conviction. Gagelonia fired his first attorney, Brent Jackson, after the trial concluded.

Spencer, a former deputy commonwealth's attorney for the city of Richmond, refers to court transcripts, which he says establish that on at least two occasions the lead investigator in the case, Henrico Police Detective Paul Ronson, gave conflicting testimony concerning the whereabouts of the evidence in question.

Spencer filed a motion to reconsider the case in July, but the judge dismissed it. Spencer now plans to file an appeal. On Tuesday, Spencer submitted court testimony and other details to the Henrico County Division of Police's internal affairs unit, asking for an investigation into Ronson's mishandling of the evidence and "false testimony."

Henrico Police Spokesman Lt. Doug Perry says Ronson disputes "Gagelonia's interpretation of what happened," but couldn't discuss the missing evidence because Spencer is appealing the case. But, Perry says, the department would welcome Spencer to file a complaint over the missing evidence. "We would investigate it," Perry says. "We have nothing to hide."

Now serving a 21-year prison sentence, with 10 years suspended, Gagelonia says he's desperate for justice. He doesn't understand how he was convicted of a crime when key pieces of evidence can't be found.

Squelching the anger isn't easy, Gagelonia says. A rising kickboxing star who had never lost a professional fight, Gagelonia says he's been tested only once in jail. An inmate who began to harass Gagelonia quickly discovered his mistake.

Gagelonia head-butted the man, who fell to the floor in a gush of blood. "All I do is pray now," he says. "Anger is just going to eat me up." S

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