The Bartel Cocaine Case Keeps Expanding

Dr. William Bartel has already pleaded guilty and faces ten years in prison. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found 81 pounds of cocaine in his home.

Dr. Bartel will be a government witness. He'll need protection until the case is over and perhaps for the rest of his life.

The FBI says there are two other men in the case. They, too, probably will be government witnesses against the rogue border patrolmen suspected of lifting cocaine from smugglers and selling it around the state. It's become common knowledge that Dr. Bartel came to the FBI's attention only after he was seen meeting with two men who have fascinating murder-trial backgrounds.

They are Mitch Singer and Stan Akers Jr.
Singer is a former restaurant operator. At one time, Singer ran three restaurants, two on Central Avenue in Phoenix and another in Scottsdale.

Singer closed them during the early Eighties when he went into bankruptcy.
Singer's sister, Elana, was murdered by her husband, Steve Steinberg, who admitted stabbing her 26 times with a carving knife.

Steinberg worked for Singer as a restaurant manager. He had been fired shortly before the murder.

There was a sensational trial back in 1982 during which Singer appeared as a volatile witness against his former brother-in-law.

Through the brilliant defensive effort by attorneys Robert Hirsh of Tucson and Mike Benchoff of Phoenix, Steinberg was set free when the jury agreed he had murdered his beautiful wife while temporarily insane.

The verdict set off a storm of controversy that still has not fully subsided.

Police suspected Singer's restaurants as places where cocaine might be obtained. Akers, in fact, was arrested in 1976 by Department of Public Safety officers in his car while it was parked behind B.B. Singer's restaurant at 7071 Third Avenue in Scottsdale. Akers had six pounds of cocaine in his car at the time.

Akers' father was then speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.
The young Akers explained to arresting officers that he was an "unemployed bead-stringer."

One of the first to face a judge after the passage of the mandatory drug-sentencing law, Akers was sentenced to five years in prison. But he never served a day.

After being sentenced, Akers told police he would testify about an unsolved drug murder he had witnessed.

Akers thus became the star witness in the trial of drug dealer Paul Brookover. Thanks to Akers' eyewitness testimony, Brookover was sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life by the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Brookover case has since become a subject of study by Arizona State University law students because it clearly defines the requirements for a death penalty.

The circumstances of the case have always been fascinating to trial buffs. So has the role of Akers.

Akers and another accomplice, Paul Zisser, admitted conspiring with Brookover to buy 75 pounds of high-grade marijuana from the victim, Gregory Case.

After several negotiating sessions, Case transported the marijuana to Brookover's home.

Akers told the jury that while the marijuana was being weighed, he took Brookover into another room and asked him if he had the cash to pay for the marijuana.

According to Akers, Brookover told Akers he wasn't going to pay. He would solve the problem by shooting Case. Brookover, according to Akers, then returned to the other room.

Without warning, Brookover shot Case in the back with a .38-caliber pistol while Case was still weighing the marijuana.

Case fell to the floor, moaning. "What have you done?" He complained of the intense pain.

"Don't worry, buddy," Brookover said. "It'll be over soon." Brookover fired a second bullet into Case's back, killing him.

They loaded Case's body into his own van, drove it to Sky Harbor Airport and left in a parking lot. It wasn't discovered until a week later.

Akers' role in the murder may not be as blameless as he pretended in court.

Brookover told Dr. Joseph Melendez, a court psychiatrist, that he killed the marijuana dealer on orders from Akers.

The psychiatrist later testified that Brookover may have fired the shots to show Akers he was capable of killing in cold blood.

Brookover perceived Akers to be a heavyweight in the drug business.
The Supreme Court ruled: "We do not believe that the murder was committed in an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner."

Brookover's death sentence was commuted after mitigating testimony by Dr. Melendez.

Dr. Melendez testified that Brookover had suffered a severe head injury several years before which caused a lesion that led him in the direction of antisocial behavior.

There will be many who will question allowing Akers a second chance to become a government witness.

He is a convicted drug dealer who got away clean after being sentenced to five years. He was, by his own admission, an accomplice to murder.

It's not beyond the realm of possibility that some of the cocaine was obtained only after the smugglers were killed and their bodies buried in the desert.

There's too much at stake. No government witnesses in this case will ever be able to sleep easily again.

The young Akers explained to arresting officers that he was an "unemployed bead-stringer."

"Don't worry, buddy, it'll be over soon." Brookover fired a second bullet into Case's back, killing him.

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Tom Fitzpatrick

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