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Alabama Dept. of Forensic Sciences Section Chief of Drug Chemistry Michael Hitchcock examines a drug to see if it's cocaine at the forensics lab in this 2011 file photo.

When Jerry Wayne Alexander Jr. and 31 other men were arrested in November 2013, city officials referred to them as the city's "worst of the worst" drug criminals.

A four-year federal cocaine conspiracy investigation led to the arrests. Eight of the defendants, including Alexander, were charged together with participating in a conspiracy to distribute large quantities of cocaine.

Six of Alexander's co-defendants have pleaded guilty or accepted a plea deal. But Alexander insisted on a trial, and 14 jurors were selected Thursday to hear his case in U.S. District Court.

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Jerry Wayne Alexander

Alexander, now 48, is charged with conspiring to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine and conspiring to distribute heroin. Investigators say he is tied to the conspiracy in several ways, one being the "dirty calls" — those that involved drug conversations — recorded on a wiretap between him and co-defendant LaJeromeny Brown.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Rod Waters testified Friday that during the 30-day period Brown's phone was tapped in 2013, he had five or six conversations with Alexander that Waters believed were pertinent to this drug conspiracy investigation.

"I don't think I ever heard them use the term cocaine, but they use code words," Waters testified.

The jury did not hear recordings from the tap on Brown's phone on Friday, but they did hear a recording from one of Alexander's alleged drug deals, Waters said.

Waters explained to the jury how a confidential informant made "controlled buys" of drugs from Alexander. This informant worked with investigators in return for assistance on his own case, was closely monitored during the transaction and wore a wire to record the conversations he had with Alexander.

Waters testified that he never saw an actual drug deal take place, but that he watched the informant and Alexander walk inside a duplex without drugs and then the informant leave with drugs in his possession.

Alexander's attorney, Clayton Whittaker, argued that Waters cannot testify about Alexander selling the informant drugs, saying there is no way Waters can know exactly what transpired inside the house and out of his sight.

"You left out the link of who gave what and what transpired in that house," Whittaker argued in court. " On the audio you don't hear, 'I want drugs for money.'"

Waters said he was able to infer from the recording that no one else was in the house, since no other voices are heard, and the recording is proof that Alexander discussed with the informant how much he was willing to pay for crack and heroin.

"It is easier to infer that nobody was in the house than to infer that someone was sitting silent in the house or hiding in the house to hand [the informant] drugs," Waters said.

Rob Honnet, special agent with the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, testified about the day in November 2013 when a search warrant was executed at Alexander's residence. He told the jury about the things he confiscated from the house, including a small amount of crack cocaine, digital scales, a pipe, a razor blade and some of the money used in the previous controlled buy.

Whittaker argued on cross-examination that no packaging materials were found to show that Alexander was distributing drugs, and that scales and a razor blade could simply indicate that Alexander used drugs himself.

The trial is scheduled to continue on Monday, and U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice reminded the jury it is their job to determine if Alexander is tied to the drug-distribution conspiracy, not whether he was a drug user.

Brown, Alexander's co-defendant, is expected to take the stand Monday. Brown already has pleaded guilty and is waiting to be sentenced in September.

This trial is not Alexander's first run-in with law enforcement or the Hamilton County legal system. He has 30 previous convictions in Hamilton County ranging from theft to attempted first-degree murder.

The jury has not been made aware of his criminal record and has been directed to determine his fate based only on the evidence presented in this case.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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