Federal prosecutors failed to turn over evidence of coercion among witnesses in the ongoing Telly Hankton racketeering trial and have knowingly allowed several of them to lie on the stand, attorneys for three of the four defendants alleged late Thursday in a blistering mid-trial motion asking a federal judge to throw out the case.
The attorneys for Hankton, Andre Hankton and Kevin Jackson — all cousins — claim their own spadework, testimony during the trial and evidence that turned up in a separate prosecution for the fourth defendant, accused hit man Walter Porter, show prosecutors with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office skirted the law.
Prosecutors disputed the allegations Thursday, claiming they’ve complied with their obligations to turn over favorable evidence to the defense, and if even they didn’t, it’s not too late to fix it by recalling the suspect witnesses to the stand.
The allegations, filed late Thursday, come as prosecutors are set to wrap up their case Friday against the four men after two weeks of testimony from an array of witnesses, many of them imprisoned and seeking reductions in their sentences.
Hankton, the alleged Central City crime lord, is accused of leading a murderous crew of family members and associates in the commission of five murders, numerous shootings and drug crimes spanning two decades.
One of those killings, the 2006 slaying of Darvin Bessie, is attributed to Telly Hankton himself in a sweeping 24-count grand jury indictment. In their motion Thursday, the attorneys argued that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that indicates two jailed witnesses who identified Hankton as Bessie’s killer lied on the stand.
The attorneys claim prosecutors also failed to disclose a jail phone call between another witness — the wife of former Porter associate Gerard Howard — and her jailed brother, in which they discussed his efforts to get close to Hankton in Orleans Parish Prison, aiming to develop “critical information.”
A tape of that call, which prosecutors had turned over to Porter’s attorneys for a separate bank robbery case, was nevertheless played in court this week, as one of Porter’s attorneys cross-examined the woman.
Also left undisclosed or revealed too late, the lawyers allege, were documents and a jailhouse cell phone call involving Washington “Big Wash” McCaskill, an admitted “3-N-G” gang enforcer.
McCaskill is neither charged nor a witness in the Hankton case. But his recantation of a statement that he once bought drugs from Kevin Jackson — a claim he said was coerced by two jail mates, Travis Bradley and Isaac Skinner — puts the lie to the testimony of both Bradley and Skinner during the Hankton trial, the defense attorneys claim.
The government, they argue, had an obligation to correct their alleged perjury to the jury, but failed.
They also claim prosecutors withheld FBI interviews or grand jury testimony from Michael “MikeMike” Anderson, the convicted leader of the “Josephine Dog Pound Gang.”
That lapse, the attorneys claim, “eviscerated” any chance to impeach Anderson over his claim of a jailhouse meet-up with Hankton, in which Anderson testified that Hankton asked him to place a phone call ordering up a hit job on a witness.
They say those missing documents also prevented them from delving into Anderson’s claims surrounding the “Central City Massacre,” a quintuple murder in 2006 for which Anderson was briefly sentenced to death, but which Anderson, and now prosecutors, say Hankton committed.
Feldman denied prosecutors’ bid to introduce the massacre as “intrinsic” evidence against Hankton during the trial, but defense attorneys say they might have used Anderson’s statements to the FBI or a grand jury to show he lied.
The attorneys are asking U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman to toss the indictment, or at least drop the counts related to Bessie’s murder and other allegations related to the alleged perjury or undisclosed documents.
In response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Privitera wrote that the government “believes that it has complied with its disclosure obligations,” but if not, “the defense has not been prejudiced in any significant way. At worst, the appropriate remedy is for the witnesses to be recalled to the stand for further questioning.”
Feldman could rule on the issue as early as Friday morning.
The motion was filed by Telly Hankton’s attorneys, Majeeda Snead and Emily Ratner; Michael Fawer, who represents Jackson; and Andre Hankton’s attorney, Ike Spears,
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This story has been updated to reflect that it was defendant Kevin Jackson, not Telly Hankton, from whom Washington McCaskill claimed he bought drugs before recanting.