A federal agent and a police detective testified Thursday they retrieved threatening letters from trash cans last year that accused killer Erick Scott wrote from jail to close friends about witnesses who planned to testify against him at his murder trial in the 2012 slaying of Kevin “Gus” Johnson.
The torn up letter that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Mary Downing recovered last April from a garbage can outside the North 49th Street home of Christopher Smith asks “Nino,” who is Smith, to get with “Tim” and — in an apparent reference to the witnesses — “step on them.”
The handwritten letter, which Downing pieced together with tape, also says to “get it done before my court date” and concludes with this warning: “Don’t let nobody see this letter.”
Baton Rouge police Detective Elvin Howard, likewise, found a letter last April in a restroom trash can at the apartment of Kirrasha R. Nicholas, to whom Scott gave the name of a key witness to the Johnson killing and states in the letter, “Them people ain’t gone come to court on me. If they do, we gone beat them.”
Prosecutor Dana Cummings rested the state’s second-degree murder case against Scott, 23, of Baton Rouge, on Thursday evening after jurors read both letters and also listened to several of his recorded East Baton Rouge Parish Prison phone calls to the recipients of the letters.
Scott told state District Judge Chip Moore that he will not testify.
The case is expected to go to the jury Friday.
Scott also is charged with second-degree murder in the Oct. 16, 2011, shooting death of 17-year-old Justice Thompson. Scott has not been tried in that case.
Zac Woodring, another Baton Rouge police detective, testified Thursday he learned of Scott’s letters while monitoring his prison phone calls.
Scott’s attorney, Benn Hamilton, objected to the use of the calls at the trial, calling them an invasion of Scott’s privacy. The judge overruled the objection.
Parish Prison inmates are warned that their calls are recorded and subject to monitoring.
In an April 2 call from Scott to his then-girlfriend Nicholas that the jury heard, Scott gives her the cellphone number of Elaine Jackson’s sister. Jackson was sitting next to Kevin Johnson, 21, when he was shot to death inside her car on Valentine’s Day 2012 at the intersection of North Acadian Thruway West and Choctaw Drive. She later identified Scott as the man who shot Johnson.
In the April 2 call, Scott tells Nicholas he will write her a letter and tell her what to do. Scott later tells Nicholas in an April 10 call to tear up the letter he sent her — the same letter Howard recovered.
In an April 4 call to Ron Neshell Dunn, Scott and Dunn are heard talking about “Elaine.”
Scott instructs Smith in an April 8 call to destroy the letter he sent Smith. That is the letter Downing found.
Woodring testified he interpreted that letter as Scott asking Smith to kill anyone who planned to testify against him.
The detective acknowledged that Scott did not threaten anyone in his phone calls or ask anyone to do harm to another.
“That’s against the law?” Hamilton asked Woodring.
“Witness tampering? Yes,” the detective replied.
Prosecutors accused Scott last summer of asking friends to beat, bribe, intimidate or kill the witnesses who planned to testify against him at his murder trials. The charges include solicitation for first-degree murder, conspiracy to injure or intimidate witnesses and conspiracy to commit public bribery.
Nicholas and Dunn, both of Baton Rouge, also are charged with conspiracy. Smith was not charged because he did not act on Scott’s request, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said.
Scott faces an automatic sentence of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.