The Miami Herald
Posted on Tue, Dec. 16, 2003
By Larry Lebowitz

Someone is apparently trying to give defense attorney J.C. Elso a supernatural leg up as his federal money-laundering trial hits the homestretch.

Prosecutors complained Monday that their courtroom seats and evidence boxes were covered with voodoo powder in a Santeria ritual.

Veteran Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie said he respects all religions, but is tired of getting his suit coats cleaned of powder residue.

Co-prosecutor Michael S. Davis showed U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz a large quantity of the grayish dust that was dumped in evidence boxes next to their table in the courtroom.

Santeria experts say voodoo powder can bring good luck, swaying juries, judges or prosecutors in favor of the accused.

”White powder, generally, is for things to go good,” said Mercedes Sandoval, a retired Miami Dade College anthropology professor.

The names of the judge, prosecutor, defendant and others are written on pieces of paper and burned. Ashes mixed with ground-up twigs are then spread around for maximum impact.

Black magic is rarely found at the federal courthouse, but is more common outside the Richard Gerstein Justice Building, the state criminal courthouse. A janitorial crew dubbed ”the Voodoo Squad” regularly removes sacrificial chickens, roosters and goats from the grounds.

Elso’s defense attorney, Mel Black, said whoever is hoping to help his client has probably done the opposite:

Seitz ordered the courtroom locked during breaks, meaning Black can’t prepare there for the next series of witnesses.

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