PENSACOLA — The federal trial of an Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier on cocaine smuggling charges has been postponed until January.
Master Sgt. Daniel J. Gould of the Eglin Air Force Base-headquartered 7th Group had been scheduled to go to trial this week in U.S. District Court on two counts of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine. But in an order signed late last month by Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, the trial start was delayed from Nov. 13 to Jan. 7. Under the new schedule, jury selection will begin at 9 a.m. on Jan. 7 in Pensacola.
The order does not include any information on why the trial was moved, but "it is routine to have scheduling changes for court hearings," according to Amy Alexander, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida, which is prosecuting the case.
Gould has pleaded not guilty to both charges. His attorney, John L. Wilkins of Pensacola, did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment.
Gould was indicted in September by a federal grand jury. The indictment came a month after reports surfaced that Gould allegedly attempted to smuggle cocaine into the United States from Colombia. Gould reportedly was arrested after two “heavy bags” filled with nearly 90 pounds of cocaine were intercepted at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. The “heavy bags” — cylindrical punching bags used by athletes — reportedly were bound for an aircraft heading to Eglin
The bags were intercepted by another suspicious Special Forces soldier. The cocaine was discovered after the bags were X-rayed by Colombian officials.
Colombia is part of the 7th Group’s area of responsibility, but Gould had been on vacation — not on military duty — before the discovery of the bags. He already was back in the United States when the bags were intercepted.
Gould could face sentences ranging from 10 years to life on each of the two charges, Alexander said following the release of the indictment.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation with help from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, Colombian authorities and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida. A DEA spokeswoman from the agency's Miami office did not return a Tuesday phone call seeking comment, although the conspiracy charges against Gould could suggest that additional people could be charged.
According to a 2010 Army news release, Gould was awarded a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest military honor, for actions during the 7th Group’s 2007-08 deployment to Afghanistan. The 7th Group moved from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Eglin in 2011.