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ORCHESTRATED DRUG SALE A `KEYSTONE COPS THING’

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The judge in the trial of a teenager accused of selling federal officials crack cocaine across the street from the White House called the government effort to show how easy it is to buy drugs a "Keystone Kops thing."

First the alleged drug dealer didn't show up to make the sale in Lafayette Park, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Sam Gaye testified Thursday. Next the undercover officer's body microphone malfunctioned. Then the cameraman videotaping the deal missed the action because he was being assaulted by a homeless woman."This is like a Keystone Kops thing," U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin exclaimed as the government presented evidence against alleged drug seller Keith Jackson, 18, whose trial continues Friday.

DEA officials set up the Sept. 1 drug sale to show how easy it is to buy illegal drugs, even in the shadow of the White House. President Bush used the story of the sale as an illustration during his Sept. 5 nationwide speech about the war on drugs.

Jackson is charged with four counts of distributing crack at three locations in the nation's capital between April 24 and Sept. 1. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Gaye said his boss asked him Aug. 31 to set up a drug deal near the executive mansion.

"He just walked into my office and said, `Can you make a drug buy around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?"' Gaye testified, adding, "I had 24 hours to buy three ounces of crack."

Presidential speech writers conceived the idea of having Bush hold up a bag of crack during his anti-drug speech last summer while the president was on vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush endorsed the idea, and White House officials called a top aide to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who in turn contacted the DEA.

Gaye said the first dealer he set up a meeting with didn't show. Then, a meeting was arranged with Jackson.

The DEA officials said that their efforts to get Jackson to the park almost failed because Jackson didn't know where the White House was.