Lawyer: Path cleared for talks on reducing sentence for rapper Mac Phipps after witnesses say they lied at trial

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery on Jan. 12, 2015, at the St. Tammany Justice Center in Covington.

An attorney for Mac Phipps, a rapper who was convicted in a fatal Slidell nightclub shooting, says 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery has no plans to recuse his office from the case. Attorney Buddy Spell said that clears the way for negotiations to begin regarding Phipps’ sentence now that several witnesses have said they lied during the trial.

Phipps was convicted of manslaughter in 2001 for the shooting death of Barron Victor Jr. at an open-mic night at Club Mercedes in 2000. The case was prosecuted under former DA Walter Reed, and Phipps was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But some witnesses in the original trial recently told the New Orleans-based website The Lens and The Huffington Post that they lied on the witness stand, in some cases testifying to things they didn’t see because of pressure from prosecutors. One said people with the DA’s Office, then under Reed, “stalked” her and threatened to take away her children if she didn’t testify.

Phipps is seeking to have his sentence reduced to 15 years — about the length of time he has served — as an alternative to seeking a new trial based on the witnesses’ new statements.

“The question will be: Is 30 years too much?” Spell said.

Spell said he met with Montgomery and Collin Sims, who is head of the DA’s Office’s Criminal Division, to discuss whether the office would recuse itself. The issue arose because Montgomery had met with Phipps’ parents while he was still a private defense lawyer. He did not take the case.

Montgomery’s office decided to retain the case, and the defense did not object, although both qualified their positions. Montgomery said he didn’t see a reason to recuse “at this time,” and Spell said, “At this time, we make no objection.”

Montgomery never met with Phipps and so did not have any privileged information that would be an issue for his defense, Spell said, noting that Montgomery was never attorney of record and did not receive a fee from Phipps or his family.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter at @spagonesadvocat.