AUGUSTA — An attorney for a New York man charged with drug trafficking told jurors Tuesday that his client is “a rotten boyfriend and a freeloading mooch,” but not a drug trafficker.

Attorneys outlined both sides of the case at the Capital Judicial Center on the opening day of the drug trafficking trial of Kashawn McLaughlin, 26, of Queens, New York. McLaughlin was among seven people arrested on crack cocaine and heroin charges after a November 2015 drug bust that law enforcement officials described as one of the most significant in recent years.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Katie Sibley, said six people will testify about the what happened the day McLaughlin was arrested a year ago in Room 175 at the Senator Inn & Spa in Augusta.

She said the room was under surveillance by Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers who saw a number of people going into the room and then leaving a short time later.

“Agents will testify that this type of activity is indicative of drug trafficking,” she said.

McLaughlin was indicted in January 2016 on charges of aggravated trafficking in cocaine base and aggravated unlawful trafficking in heroin. He had pleaded not guilty to both offenses.

McLaughlin’s attorney, Jonathan Handelman, said jurors should find his client innocent.

Handelman said two witnesses expected to testify are young women, including McLaughlin’s girlfriend. They were arrested in the same hotel room and were eager to talk to the prosecution in exchange for a lighter sentence, he said.

“What would you say to get two years off a prison sentence?” he asked jurors.

He said McLaughlin has a felony conviction for a burglary committed at age 22 and that he had come to Maine to get tattoos, but got sick and argued with his girlfriend.

“Kashawn is a rotten boyfriend and a freeloading mooch,” Handelman said, adding, “He’s not a model citizen … but not a drug dealer like the state says he is.”

On Tuesday, the indictment read to the jurors indicated the second charge against McLaughlin is now one of unlawful trafficking in heroin, which carries a lesser penalty.

McLaughlin was arrested a year ago and has been held in jail since then, unable to post the $50,000 cash bail.

Handelman also told jurors they were selected because their responses to questions indicated that they were not racially biased, that they understood the concept of innocent until proven guilty and they understood that the state had to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

At a pretrial hearing in September, Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that attorneys could not use McLaughlin’s nickames, “Esco” and “Ammo,” during the trial. She also ruled that the state could not introduce anything about another cocaine trafficking charge against McLaughlin from October 2015, since it was being charged separately.

Several of the co-defendants are expected to testify at McLaughlin’s trial, which is scheduled for four days. Seven people, including three defense attorneys, were in the spectators’ area to watch opening statements.

McLaughlin, wearing a blue, long-sleeved dress shirt with an open collar, watched the speakers intently.

The first witness called, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Officer and Augusta police Detective Brian Wastella, pinned large color photographs to poster board featuring a hand-drawn outline of the hotel room. It was unclear why two large wall-mounted television monitors weren’t being used.

Wastella testified that the room was not in McLaughlin’s name.

“The hotel room was rented by a known drug user,” Wastella said.

Three co-defendants arrested with McLaughlin during the same raid have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges.

Donna Lynnette Hall, 46, of Augusta, also known as Donna Williams, pleaded guilty in August 2016 to two charges of unlawful trafficking and one count of violating condition of release and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. She also did not contest the forfeiture of $12,188 in cash and two firearms seized in the raid.

In June 2016, Tymell R. Waters, 31, of Manhattan, New York, pleaded guilty at the Capital Judicial Center to unlawful trafficking in cocaine base. A second charge, aggravated trafficking in heroin, was dismissed in exchange for that plea. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison.

Also in June 2016, Frederick Rogers, 32, of New York City, pleaded guilty in the same courthouse to unlawful trafficking and was sentenced to two years in prison.

All three are among those listed among the defense witnesses expected to be called at the trial.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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