Daiquiri shop owner, shot at least 17 times in attack, to play key role as Hankton case heads to jury _lowres

Walter Porter

A federal judge this week set a November trial date for accused New Orleans hit man Walter “Urkel” Porter in a contract killing case, signaling that the man accused of being a hired gun for former Central City crime kingpin Telly Hankton has been deemed mentally fit to go forward in a trio of federal prosecutions.

Porter, 39, who also goes by “Moonie,” was sent more than a year ago to a federal medical facility outside of Boston in an effort to restore his competency. He returned to New Orleans over the summer to be evaluated at a two-day closed hearing, court records show.

The results of those evaluations were not publicly disclosed, and Tuesday’s action setting a trial date marked the first clear indication that Porter has been declared able to assist in his own defense.

Robert Toale, one of Porter’s attorneys, declined to comment Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance set a Nov. 16 trial date for Porter in the 2010 execution of Christopher “Tiger” Smith in the doorway of his Gretna home.

A federal jury in June convicted former LSU wide receiver Nemessis “Nemo” Bates for ordering the hit, for which Porter and Aaron “Beadie” Smith were to split a $20,000 bounty, prosecutors argued. Christopher Smith, who is no relation to Aaron, was shot 20 times, allegedly after stealing from Bates.

Aaron Smith testified that he was wearing an ankle monitor when Bates approached him with an offer to pay for Christopher Smith’s killing, so he farmed out the job to a professional: Porter. Porter is charged with using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder for hire, causing death by firearm and a gun conspiracy.

Bates, who was convicted on four federal counts, awaits sentencing.

Porter was arraigned only Friday on the latest indictment, pleading not guilty.

He entered the same plea last week in a massive, 3-year-old federal gang racketeering case that also names Hankton; his mother, Shirley; and several other Hanktons or associates in a bloody drug conspiracy allegedly dating back two decades and leaving several dead bodies in its wake.

That case is scheduled for trial in June.

Among the allegations in that case, Porter is accused of carrying out or assisting in the murder of a Hankton rival, Jessie “TuTu” Reed, in 2009; the $10,000 killing a few weeks later of Hasan “Hockie” Williams, a witness to Reed’s murder; the shooting, 19 times, of a witness who survived to testify against Telly Hankton in the 2008 killing of Darnell Stewart on South Claiborne Avenue, which landed Hankton a life prison sentence; and the subsequent murder of Curtis Matthews, the brother of that witness, shortly after Hankton’s 2011 conviction.

The indictment describes Porter as “gunman for the enterprise.”

In the meantime, Porter still faces charges stemming from a pair of armed bank robberies that netted some $134,000 in summer 2011. That trial is slated for Nov. 2, with Porter and London “Luchie” Carter as the last remaining defendants. Porter’s attorneys have asked for a delay in that case.

After Porter and others robbed a Capital One bank branch in Metairie, authorities claim, dye packs included with the cash they got exploded and Porter veered into a curb, disabling the car. Porter and the other alleged robbers escaped in a trailing car, then allegedly organized a quick money-laundering gambit.

They ran the ink-stained cash through a washing machine, and when it came out pink, associates funneled the money through machines at Harrah’s Casino, authorities say. Porter wasn’t among those who entered Harrah’s, according to state and federal documents.

The bespectacled Porter, who grew up around Freret Street, earned his nickname “Urkel” from the geeky character in the 1990s sitcom “Family Matters.” He has been linked by prosecutors, directly or through his firearms, to at least nine murders and six bank robberies, federal court records show.

Prosecutors suggest Porter was a cool, savvy killer who worked for Hankton and others. In one show of restraint, Porter once called off a targeted killing when a cohort — rapper Christopher “B.G.” Dorsey — got too high, according to a transcript of a jailhouse phone call.

Porter has frequently acted up in federal courtrooms, and he continues to send letters to federal judges that claim he’s a victim of nefarious, unconstitutional tactics by prosecutors and his prior attorneys.

Early this year, federal prosecutors took the death penalty off the table for Porter, Telly Hankton and three others for their alleged roles in the Hankton organization.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman has scheduled a trial in the Hankton case for June 2016.

Porter’s mental status has been kept guarded by both federal prosecutors and his attorneys, who cite a gag order in the Hankton racketeering case.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.