Former LSU wide receiver and Tulane Avenue car wash owner Nemessis “Nemo” Bates will spend the rest of his life in prison for ordering a $20,000 hit job allegedly executed by an accused henchman for Central City crime figure Telly Hankton, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance said she had no choice under the law but to sentence Bates, 37, to life for his role in the Sept. 21, 2010, killing of Christopher “Tiger” Smith, but she said she would have done so in any case, based on the evidence from a June trial.
Vance rejected a plea by Bates that he was a “passive participant” who had no control over the actions of Aaron “Beadie” Smith, who said Bates solicited him for the hit, or those of Walter “Urkel” Porter, who allegedly carried it out.
Porter, 40, has yet to stand trial on allegations that he gunned down Tiger Smith in his Gretna doorway. Federal prosecutors claim Porter, 40, fired more than 20 gunshots into Smith just two days after Bates offered up the bounty.
Unable to come up with the $20,000, Bates instead lent his Mercedes-Benz to Porter, prosecutors say. A police traffic stop of Porter in the car helped authorities tie the case together.
Aaron Smith, who is no relation to the victim, earlier pleaded guilty in the case. Hoping for leniency, he testified that Bates had offered him the money for the hit. Smith, who was strapped with an electronic ankle monitor at the time, said he farmed out the job to Porter and decided to split the cash.
At his sentencing, Bates offered a rambling rebuke of his attorney in the case, Peter Strasser, who earlier described his client as “a scared child.”
Bates claimed he received ineffective assistance of counsel, a common post-conviction argument.
“I’ve been having no father, no lover, no friend. I didn’t have anybody in my corner. Nobody at all. All I want to do is help myself,” Bates said. “I’m not a child. I ran successful businesses with dirty people under me. I never had no problem.”
Prosecutors said Bates was angry at Christopher Smith, his friend, because he believed Smith had stolen money and jewelry from him.
Bates testified in his own defense at the trial, claiming he was a victim of extortion. He said Aaron Smith and Porter killed Christopher Smith as a favor he never requested, then came to the car wash demanding money.
At the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Privitera challenged the portrayal of Bates by his attorney as “a very helpless little child, very harmless but helpless.”
“He’s not a childlike, bumbling idiot,” Privitera told the jury. “He’s a manipulating, conniving liar.”
Bates, who played at LSU in the late 1990s, transferred to Southern University and injured his ankle, ending his dreams of an NFL career. He returned to New Orleans to work as a club bouncer, then opened Nemo’s Car Wash.
The jury found Bates guilty of solicitation to commit a crime of violence, conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder for hire, causing death through the use of a firearm and conspiracy to possess firearms.
Vance has not set a new trial date for Porter, who also is named among 13 defendants in a wide-ranging federal racketeering indictment of Hankton family members and alleged cohorts.
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