Drug Cop Memoirs: “Speed, Counselor”

The perils of attempting humor from the witness stand

By Dave Grossi  |   Jul 17, 2018

[Author’s Note: Most of our readers know that I spent a considerable amount of time working undercover narcotics.  While at a family gathering, I was reflecting on some of the more humorous moments during those years. After a few prompts from family and friends, I decided to regale the small group with some of the more hilarious, albeit G-rated, anecdotes. –D.G.]

I was subpoenaed to testify at a preliminary hearing of a dope dealer. We had busted the guy with a considerable amount of methamphetamine, in addition to a few ounces of pot. The meth quantity was enough to qualify for a Class-C felony, which carried mandatory prison time if convicted. His defense attorney demanded a preliminary hearing. I really didn’t relish the idea of going into court in my condition as Dave Graziano, bearded and all, but I had no choice. Our drug ADA tried to no avail to close the hearing, but the judge wouldn’t have any of that.

During the course of my direct testimony, I testified on the set-up for the buy, the quantity of speed I desired, and the exchange of money, etc. I also testified to the field test on the meth. When asked what my field test indicated, I said, “It tested positive.”

We had already received a verbal positive from the lab prior to the hearing, but the official report had yet to arrive. During cross examination, I was asked a series of questions by the defense on the specifics of the reagent I used for the field test. Back then, we used Marquis Reagent, which covered most illicit amphetamines as well assorted narcotics. The next question pertained to the specifics of how I actually bought the substance since I always used the term “speed” when speaking with my seller.

My guess was the attorney was going to question my use of the Marquis Reagent in IDing the meth since it is normally used for heroin, Demerol and/or morphine.  This was the first time I used the full name of the drug, methamphetamine in my testimony.  In answering his question on the type of drug I was buying, I said, “Methamphetamine.” 

I then noticed the court reporter lean over to the attorney and engage in a very quick conversation. I then followed up with the word “speed” since that is how the defendant and I communicated about the drug. The attorney then asked me, “Can you please spell that, Detective?” 

With my best Dave Graziano smirk, I said, “Sure, Counselor. S-P-E-E-D.” 

The look on the judge’s face showed he didn’t appreciate my attempt at humor.

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Dave Grossi
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate NY now residing in southwest FL. He was the Lead Instructor for the Calibre Press, Inc. Street Survival Seminars from 1988 through 2000.