A 66-year-old Annapolis cab driver, charged with a narcotics violation during a sting operation against city cab drivers, was convicted in Circuit Court yesterday.
George F. Tolson of the 900 block of President St. was convicted on a single count of distribution of cocaine after a two-day jury trial before Judge Martin A. Wolff.
A total of 13 people were charged in the May 22 sting, which was part of a five-month investigation.
According to testimony, Officer Pamela Johnson, an officer hired just a week earlier, posed as a cab customer looking for drugs.
She reportedly got into Tolson's cab Jan. 2 near the Dockside Inn and said she wanted "something to party with."
Tolson, a driver for the Arundel Colonial Cab Co., took the officer to the Robinwood housing complex.
There, Tolson acted as a broker, inspecting the $40 worth of cocaine offered by someone who approached the cab, saying he wanted to ensure she wasn't being ripped off, Officer Johnson testified.
Over the course of the five-month investigation, she took 83 rides with 56 different cabbies.
Annapolis police charged 13 drivers after making a total of 26 purchases, she said.
Robert Waldman, assistant public defender, tried to convince jurors that Tolson's actions were similar to a cabbie taking a "sailor on shore leave" or an out-of-town businessman to a house of prostitution when he asks for such a trip.
a cabbie is asked where the women are, and he takes someone to The Block, is he responsible for promotion of prostitution?" he asked.
Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Bell argued that by his actions, Tolson was simply promoting drug sales and use, which he called "a cancer on our society."
"He was there to put the buyer and the seller together, he created the market. He was the marketplace," Mr. Bell said.
The jury of 11 whites and one black deliberated for about two hours yesterday before convicting Tolson, who is black.
Judge Wolff set sentencing for Oct. 14.
Tolson faces a prison sentence of 20 years.
Mr. Bell said he would make no recommendation on a sentence.
"In the overall scheme of things, I'd have to say he's on the lower end of the culpability spectrum, but the culpability was there," Mr. Bell said.
Officer Johnson said yesterday Tolson was the sixth defendant charged in the investigation to appear in Circuit Court.
She said Mohammed Salman and Marcelius K. Whiteside, both of Annapolis, were found guilty of distribution of cocaine after court trials.
Renee S. Bassford and Donald Aurther, both of Annapolis, also pleaded guilty to distribution of cocaine charges.
All are awaiting sentencing.
Charges against Dermot Chase, also of Annapolis, were dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence.