Trooper details how use of informant failed

| Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

When John Bronson Jr. was arrested, authorities found more than $380,000 in his Fayette City house.

The drug profits were turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office. John Newman's cooperation as a confidential informant culminated in Bronson's lost drug profits.

Bronson agreed to become a confidential informant after his arrest on Oct. 3, 2002. But after four months of failed cooperation, authorities broke ties with Bronson on Jan. 30.

Four days later, Newman was murdered.

Michael "Cleveland Mike" Duncan, 34, of Amherst, Ohio, and Bronson, 54, are on trial for criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy in connection with the Feb. 4, 2003, shooting death of Newman outside his California home.

The second week of testimony in their jury trial in Washington County Court resumed on Tuesday before Judge Janet Moschetta Bell.

Bronson is a Monessen native serving time in a federal penitentiary in Lewisburg on a conviction unrelated to the Newman case.

Duncan, Bronson and Howard Irwin of Charleroi were charged a year ago as a result of the Washington County grand jury investigation.

Last month, Irwin pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of hindering apprehension or prosecution and agreed to testify against Bronson and Duncan.

In exchange for his testimony, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the criminal homicide and conspiracy charges against Irwin.

Newman died from a 9 mm gunshot in the head. Prosecutors allege Newman was a drug addict and street-level dealer who agreed to conduct a controlled drug buy from Bronson.

After Bronson was arrested, he agreed to become a confidential informant. Instead, he sought to have Newman killed, prosecutors allege.

State police Trooper Aaron Borello testified to the investigation that nabbed Newman, then Bronson.

In the fall of 2002, Borello said he had arranged for a confidential informant to make buys of Oxycontin from Newman. Facing felony drug charges, Newman agreed to become an informant. He named Bronson as his dealer.

Borello said Newman had saved roughly $30,000 in drug profits by that time, but authorities estimated that close to $900,000 in Oxycontin pills had passed through his hands. That disparity was a strong indication of the depths of Newman's addiction, Borello said.

After Newman made a buy from Bronson on Oct. 3, 2002, Bronson repeatedly asked who set him up. Although Borello never replied, he said drug dealers usually figure it out because the confidential informant is the last person they see before their arrest.

Newman told Borello he was "scared" of Bronson because of the Monessen native's reputation on the streets. But he declined to be relocated and continued to abuse and deal in drugs.

Bronson told Borello his drug supplier was a man who operated out of a fish market in Miami. He made calls to set up a delivery of large quantities of cocaine and Oxycontin, but never followed through.

Instead, Bronson no longer cooperated, even when he had a chance for a one-time only immunity from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On Jan. 31, Bronson's deal was terminated, Borello said.

Michael Comber, an assistant U.S. attorney, testified that none of Bronson's information about his supplier could be corroborated.

Eric DeLong, a former Washington County corrections officer, testified that he ran into Duncan at a club in Uniontown in 2003. Duncan invited him to have a drink.

While in the VIP section of the club, DeLong testified that he overheard Duncan tell a friend, "I popped that guy in the back of the head in California."

Troubled by what he overheard and aware of Newman's murder, DeLong contacted the state police, who put him in touch with the FBI.

In cross-examination, DeLong denied drinking before entering the club and said while there was normal noise in the club, Duncan was "boisterous" and "boasting."

Shawn Geletei testified he was a prisoner in the county jail when Duncan came up to him and said of Newman, "I'm going to take his ass out." Geletei said he and Newman were neighbors and friends.

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