A jury was sworn in Monday in a federal racketeering trial for accused Central City crime leader Telly Hankton, alleged hit man Walter Porter and two others accused of taking part in a bloody drug-selling conspiracy dating back two decades.
Opening statements are slated for Tuesday morning in a trial that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said would run about three weeks.
A 24-count indictment originally named 13 defendants, including several Hankton family members, in racketeering, drug and gun conspiracies that prosecutors said involved numerous shootings and five murders.
Hankton, the 39-year-old accused leader of a drug-dealing clan centered on Josephine Street, is alleged to have killed Darvin Bessie in 2006, Darnell Stewart in 2008 and Jessie “TuTu” Reed in 2009. Reed’s killing took place while Hankton was free on $1 million bail in connection with Stewart’s killing.
Porter and Kevin Jackson are accused of also taking part in Reed’s killing during a barrage of more than 50 bullets on Terpsichore Street. Porter is further alleged to have shot John Matthews, a witness to Stewart’s killing, in a failed bid to silence him and then to have killed the witness’s brother, Curtis Matthews, a year later.
Hasan “Hockie” Williams, a witness to Reed’s murder, was gunned down two weeks later, allegedly at Porter’s hands.
The fourth defendant, Andre Hankton, 38, is accused, among other crimes, of running down Stewart with his car before Telly Hankton allegedly strode up and shot his rival in the drug trade.
Nine others, including Hankton’s mother, Shirley Hankton, have pleaded guilty in the weeks leading up to trial.
The most recent guilty plea came Monday morning. Sana Johnson, 41, pleaded guilty to misprision, or concealment, of a felony for her role in a scheme to lend Telly Hankton a false alibi at his first trial for Stewart’s murder, in 2011. The jury in that trial deadlocked.
Prosecutors quickly filed perjury charges against Johnson and Danielle Hampton, who testified that she was on a date with Telly Hankton at the W Hotel when Stewart was gunned down on South Claiborne Avenue.
Johnson, who faces up to three years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced in October.
An Orleans Parish jury earlier convicted Hankton of second-degree murder in Stewart’s slaying. Hankton is now serving a life prison term on that conviction.
Porter was convicted in federal court in March in an unrelated hit job on an Algiers man, Christopher Smith.
Feldman held jury selection Monday under tight security that is expected to continue through the trial.
City officials have described Hankton as among the most dangerous criminals in the city, but few of the more than 100 prospective jurors from across southeast Louisiana said they knew about the case or Hankton’s notoriety.
Feldman last week denied prosecutors’ bid to let the jury hear newly revealed allegations that it was Hankton who committed a quintuple murder in 2006 that became known as the “Central City massacre.”
Michael “MikeMike” Anderson was convicted and sentenced to death for those killings, though his conviction was later overturned. He then pleaded no contest to five manslaughter counts as part of a wider federal-state plea deal. Anderson is expected to testify at the Hankton trial.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.