News | 18.11.2011 | Comments Off on Searcher probed sewer for body

Searcher probed sewer for body
FBI worker testifies in murder, kidnapping of missing marijuana dealer
By ROBERT GAVIN, Staff writer
Updated 09:29 p.m., Tuesday, November 15, 2011
ALBANY — An FBI searcher donned special gear and descended into the depths of an Albany sewer to try to locate the remains of a missing marijuana dealer, but could not risk checking a main sewage pipe because it was too dangerous, he testified Tuesday.

Michael Hoskings, who works with a hazardous materials unit for the FBI, testified for Albany County prosecutors as they near resting their case against three men charged with the kidnapping and murder of Steven “Swag” Jackson, 41, of Guilderland, a high-level marijuana dealer who vanished on June 13, 2010.

The prosecution contends kidnappers ambushed Jackson at his marijuana stash house, an apartment at 40 Parkwood St. in Albany. It’s alleged they hog-tied him with sheets, beat him and later dumped his lifeless body down a sewer manhole on Terminal Street.

Hoskings told jurors that on April 13, his mission involved putting cameras into pipes and propping open manholes. Hoskings explained he went into the sewer on Terminal Street when investigators spotted debris in a sewer hole and wanted to see if it was evidence.

He said he propped open a manhole and dropped into the sewage system as water was flowing inside. He wore a harness, water-resistant suit covering his head, breathing apparatus and a cord attached to the surface. Fresh air was pumped inside the manhole, he said.

Hoskings said the search only revealed a piece of cloth. He said investigators also checked out the main sewer line but decided not to send anyone inside because of the dangers of water pressure. It would have been too perilous to take the risk, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Francisco Calderon asked Hoskings what was flowing inside the pipe at that time.

“It’s raw sewage, sir,” Hoskings replied.

Jackson’s remains have never been found.

Ricky “L” Thornton, 41, of Rensselaer; Jason “Jay” Benn, 38, of Albany; and Louis “UB” Chaney of Albany, also known as “God,” are charged with second-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary and conspiracy. If convicted, they each face 25 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors allege the men abducted Jackson inside the Parkwood Street apartment with help from Anthony “Inf” Davis, 40, who pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping in exchange for a 10-year sentence.

Davis previously testified the kidnapping crew left a hog-tied Jackson in the apartment on June 13, 2010. Two days later, he testified, he and Benn checked on Jackson because he had not been seen or heard from. When they discovered he was dead, Davis said, they wrapped Jackson in sheets and a blanket, drove to Terminal Street and dumped him down the sewer.

Earlier Tuesday, Gino “G” Uzzell, Jackson’s partner in a marijuana-dealing business and the man who set him up to be robbed, completed his testimony. In January, Uzzell, 48, of Albany, was charged alongside Benn and Davis with kidnapping, but cut a deal the next month to plead guilty to conspiracy in exchange for a 7-to-21 year sentence.

Chaney’s lawyer, Michael Mansion, quizzed Uzzell about his various lies and deception, which included Uzzell buying dinner for Jackson’s concerned friends at the Elbo Room eatery in Albany after the man had disappeared. Mansion also noted Uzzell told police he was in “shock” to learn Jackson dealt marijuana.

“Oh yeah — I was being dishonest,” Uzzell replied.

Uzzell testified Monday he placed a GPS device in Jackson’s car for his alleged kidnappers to track him. And Davis said it was Uzzell who initiated the idea to rob Jackson of money, which led to the kidnapping.

On Tuesday, Mansion suggested Uzzell was downplaying his role in the crime, but he denied it.

“I had nothing to do with Steve Jackson being missing,” Uzzell testified.

“You’re just a marijuana dealer and a marijuana stealer?” Mansion asked.

“Yes,” Uzzell answered. “You could call me that.”

Reach Robert Gavin at 434-2403 or

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