Telly Hankton’s attorneys launched into their defense of the alleged Central City drug kingpin on Monday, suggesting he was framed for a 2009 killing by a corrupt New Orleans homicide detective with personal ties to both the victim and the lone eyewitness — a witness who himself was killed two weeks later.
They didn’t get much help from the former detective, Desmond Pratt.
Wearing orange St. Charles Parish jail scrubs, Pratt took the witness stand at U.S. District Court and exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 42 times.
Pratt, 46, pleaded guilty in 2014 to sexual battery and carnal knowledge of a juvenile and is serving a three-year sentence.
According to the feds, he also is the subject of an ongoing civil rights probe, suspected of coercing informants to falsely identify murder suspects either by threat of arrest or with offers of guns, money or housing.
Among those cases, the feds say, was the June 20, 2009, murder of Jessie “TuTu” Reed, a Telly Hankton rival who died in a hail of bullets from five guns.
Pratt was the lead detective investigating Reed’s murder, and he helped secure a statement from Hasan “Hockie” Williams, a friend of Reed who told police he recognized Telly Hankton as the first one to leap out of a maroon Taurus on Terpsichore Street and fire at Reed. Williams said he never got a good look at the other two men in the car.
Pratt booked Edward “Skinny” Allen, along with Telly Hankton, in Reed’s murder.
Allen was a close friend of George “Cup” Hankton, who was killed in December 2007 — allegedly by Reed and Darnell Stewart. In a 24-count federal indictment, prosecutors claim Cup Hankton’s death heated up an already bloody feud, sparking the murders of Reed, Stewart, Williams and the brother of a key witness to Stewart’s murder, among other bloodshed.
Allen spent two years in jail on what prosecutors now say was a bogus murder charge trumped up by Pratt. Since then, two witnesses have come forward to claim that Pratt pressured them to identify Allen in Reed’s murder.
Instead of Allen, federal prosecutors now claim that hit man Walter “Urkel” Porter and Kevin Jackson committed Reed’s murder, along with Telly Hankton.
All three men, as well as cousin Andre “Reese” Hankton, are on trial on racketeering, drug and gun conspiracy counts that cover five murders and numerous other shootings and drug-dealing allegations.
Telly Hankton was convicted in Stewart’s murder in 2011 and is serving a life sentence.
Pratt answered just one question from the stand Monday, responding “Yes, ma’am” when asked if he was previously an NOPD detective. After that, he recited his rights, refusing to answer questions about his alleged threats or enticements to witnesses.
Through the questions Pratt wouldn’t answer, Telly Hankton attorneys Majeeda Snead and Emily Ratner sought to cast doubt on what they insinuated was a personal stake in the Reed murder investigation, colored by police corruption.
They suggested that Pratt, who once patrolled the city’s public housing projects, had known both Reed and Hasan Williams from coaching flag football; that he worked security for rapper Christopher “B.G.” Dorsey, a close friend of Porter; and that he encouraged a fellow detective to abandon his investigation into Cup Hankton’s murder.
They also claimed Hasan Williams had two contact numbers for Pratt in his cellphone, under the detective’s nickname, “Big Red.”
And they called Nolan Cason, who claims Pratt threatened him over his role as a witness to the May 2009 murder of his friend, Rodrick Gordan.
“He told me if I didn’t cooperate, he’d book me in a homicide and a trespassing charge,” Cason said. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’ ”
Another witness testified that a female friend of his “used to have sex with (Pratt) for money and marijuana” about 2008 or 2009. He said Pratt rode around in a maroon Taurus with two Glock pistols and that he “offered me money and he offered to move my family from down here” if the man would identify Edward Allen in Reed’s murder.
The witness, whom The Advocate is not identifying, claimed Pratt “pointed to (a photo) lineup and told me who this person is and what they did and asked me to circle (Allen’s picture in) the lineup.”
“Pratt told me everything to say,” he said.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case Monday morning with former NOPD ballistics expert Meredith Acosta, who testified that two unrecovered .40-caliber pistols tied to Reed’s killing also were used to kill Hasan Williams two weeks later.
Acosta said ballistics tests tie three of the weapons used in Reed’s murder to several other killings and shootings. The links, prosecutors allege, point to Porter’s exploits as a hit man who frequently fired dozens of bullets from two guns.
The ballistics tests show that a 9 mm pistol used in Reed’s killing also was fired in the November 2010 slaying of Christopher “Tiger” Smith, a contract killing for which Porter was convicted in March. He awaits a life sentence.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.