A Baton Rouge felon who had pending state drug and gun charges when he allegedly struck and killed a 12-year-old boy during a drug-related high-speed chase on May 31 could face a lifetime behind bars if convicted on a federal drug charge filed after the fatal crash.

In an effort to shield him from that possibility, Joshual Hilton's attorneys are vigorously contesting Hilton's federal drug and firearm charges and are demanding that federal prosecutors reveal the identities of their cooperating informants.

Hilton, 32, claims some of the federal charges are the result of entrapment. Prosecutors disagree and say Hilton's prior cocaine convictions, along with evidence of his possession of "large, distributable amounts of methamphetamine" on May 31, show his predisposition to drug trafficking.

Hilton, who pleaded guilty in Baton Rouge state court to cocaine possession in 2003 and possession with intent to distribute cocaine in 2007, is charged in Baton Rouge federal court with a half-dozen drug and weapons counts.

He's charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; cocaine distribution; methamphetamine distribution; possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, marijuana and promethazine; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

In documents filed last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Crosswell referenced Hilton's two felony drug convictions in state court and said he faces a mandatory term of life in prison if found guilty of the federal possession with intent to distribute charge.

Hilton is being held without bail until his trial on state drug and gun charges. His next scheduled appearance in state court is Nov. 14.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick has scheduled a hearing two days later on Hilton's motion to compel authorities to disclose the identities of the federal government's cooperating informants.

Hilton's attorneys, Ron Haley and Dedrick Moore, said in a written statement Wednesday that they disagree with the use of confidential informants but recognize the law allows for the limited use in the criminal justice system.

"The conduct and behavior of the informants in Mr. Hilton's case warrants the release of their identity so that their actions and motives could be subject to the scrutiny of cross examination," Haley and Moore said.

Prior to the May 31 incident that claimed the life of 12-year-old Samuel "Sammy" Lee III, Hilton had been arrested in September and October of 2016.

He is charged in state court with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, methamphetamine and codeine; illegal carrying of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance; and possession of a firearm by a felon stemming from the September 2016 arrest. He has a pending charge of codeine possession stemming from his arrest last October.

Hilton's federal charges stem from incidents that occurred in February 2015, and January and September of 2016. The latter incident is the same one involved in his September 2016 state arrest.

Similar to the fatal May 31 incident on Old Hammond Highway at Gloria Drive, Hilton is accused of leading authorities on a high-speed chase on Sept. 22, 2016, when they tried to pull him over after witnessing what appeared to be several hand-to-hand drug transactions. Hilton, according to an arrest report, sped off at more than 100 mph down Old Hammond Highway in a BMW M4 before abandoning the car on Holt Drive and running away on foot. He was caught less than a mile away.

Authorities say Hilton was seen tossing drugs from his vehicle during the September 2016 and May 31 high-speed police chases.

Federal prosecutors filed documents last month stating they intend to use Hilton's drug convictions and his "two flights from law enforcement" as evidence of both his criminal intent and guilty conscience.

Haley argues in court documents that all evidence derived from the confidential informants should be deemed inadmissible in court if the government does not reveal the informants' identities. Croswell, the prosecutor, calls them cooperating witnesses.

Haley claims entrapment in the January 2016 incident in which Hilton allegedly contacted an informant and said he had meth for sale. But Haley alleges Hilton was lured into a surveillance trap.

Hilton allegedly told the informant to meet him at a gas station at the corner of Plank Road and Evangeline Street, then called the informant and asked him to meet on Byron Street across Plank Road. The informant allegedly told Hilton he could not meet there, so Hilton met him in the parking lot of an auto parts store in the 4700 block of Plank.

"The purpose of the CI requesting to meet at 4747 Plank Rd. instead of Defendant's requested location, because law enforcement had surveillance set up there," Haley wrote in a court filing.

"Given the fact that no tangible evidence has been produced of Mr. Hilton initiating contact with the CI ... combined with the luring of Mr. Hilton into a surveillance trap, the Defendant argues that he has met his burden of raising the defense of entrapment," he added.

A federal grand jury initially indicted just Hilton on June 14, then filed a superseding indictment Aug. 9 against him and Damiene Lewis.

Lewis is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; cocaine distribution; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; possession of a stolen firearm; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

In the May incident involving the death of the boy, Hilton claims the child was not struck by his truck.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said a grand jury session has not been scheduled to consider that incident, but he noted that a grand jury would not be necessary in such a case — meaning Moore's office could charge Hilton instead of seeking a grand jury indictment.

Moore said he is still waiting on all investigative reports.




Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.