Even in a note detailing a payoff to a key witness in his murder case, Raphael Jimerson’s penmanship stands out.
Now, he’ll have plenty of time to write more neat, well-spaced letters from behind bars.
The 28-year-old Chalmette man pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder this week, thanks in part to the letter that the Sheriff’s Office found in his cell, according to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office.
Jimerson accepted a 33-year prison sentence in a fatal drive-by shooting six years ago in the 7th Ward. Jimerson was armed with an AK-47 on Feb. 11, 2008, and sprayed bullets through the sunroof of a moving car in the 2400 block of Allen Street, prosecutors alleged.
The gunfire left Keith Harrison, 25, dead, another man with several graze wounds and a third man unscathed, according to police.
Prosecutors said Jimerson, who has been in jail awaiting trial for six years, agreed to the deal only after it became clear that evidence of the letter would be allowed in court.
Sheriff’s Office officials said they found two letters in his cell in March. In one, the writer claimed he paid a key witness — whose name is blacked out — to pin the shooting on someone else in a sworn affidavit.
“OK, the affidavit is cool but it’s not 4-sho, at anytime he can get in trouble and start back working for the state,” said the writer, who addressed the note to “lil one.”
The writer said he found the witness on Facebook, and that “after I got him to do the paperwork I erased my page, but they still can track our conversation we had down.”
He called the witness “a rat,” adding, “all ‘rats’ must die!!”
“What I did was built a relationship with this (guy) and he really think what he did for me has made him real!” the letter writer said. “I was suppose to give him $1,000 but I only gave him $500 because all my daddy had! I still (owe) him $500 and the (guy) want the money!”
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, praised the Sheriff’s Office, saying the case against Jimerson otherwise relied largely on a single witness.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s staff “was able to recover the letter, realize its significance and get it to us. We were able to get an extremely good plea agreement,” Bowman said.
Jimerson’s attorney, Keith Couture, did not return a call for comment. Couture had fought in vain last year to exclude the letters from the case, court records show.
An arrest warrant had been issued for Jimerson in the killing when he was picked up on a drug count in Jefferson Parish two weeks later. A grand jury indicted him on one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. The murder count was reduced to manslaughter in return for his plea Tuesday in Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny’s courtroom.
Two plead guilty in carjacking of judge
In another court appearance, two men pleaded guilty Friday in the May carjacking of Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo outside his Carrollton-area home.
Demetrius Givens Jr., 19, pleaded guilty to carjacking and simple robbery and accepted a six-year prison term. Leonard Robinson, 19, got a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to the same charges. The status of a third defendant, whose case went to Juvenile Court, is not known.
Marullo, who at 74 is the longest-serving judge in Louisiana, had returned home from Mandina’s restaurant just before 10 p.m. and was leaving his car when five men approached him, he said. The judge turned over his wallet and his white 2011 Mercedes 300 sedan.
The culprits sped off while Marullo called his wife, who was inside the house, then police. A nearby “suspicious persons” complaint led police to a pair of stolen trucks and, ultimately, to Givens, who was walking near Palm and Leonidas streets, police said. Robinson and a 16-year-old were nabbed on a porch in the 8600 block of Palm Street.
One of the carjackers had crashed Marullo’s Mercedes into a utility pole, and the car was found on its side in the 3500 block of Leonidas Street.
Givens also pleaded guilty under the agreement to simple robbery and attempted unauthorized entry of a business, from a separate crime. He was arrested in October 2012 after an alarm went off at Silky’s bar in the 3800 block of Magnolia Street.
Givens and Robinson entered their pleas Friday before ad hoc judge Robert Burns, a former Jefferson Parish jurist.
“That’s a perfectly fair sentence,” Marullo said Friday afternoon, referring to both Givens and Robinson.
Marullo said the Mercedes was damaged beyond repair.