Add one more to the list of murders that federal prosecutors have pinned on alleged Central City drug kingpin Telly Hankton.
A superseding indictment handed up this week by a federal grand jury adds two counts against Hankton to a 22-count indictment from October 2012 that named Hankton; his mother, Shirley Hankton; and several cousins and associates in a broad racketeering conspiracy allegedly involving several murders and attempts to foil the criminal justice system.
Both indictments name the same 13 people. But along with the 2008 murder of Darnell Stewart — for which Telly Hankton is now serving a life sentence — and the 2009 slaying of Jessie “TuTu” Reed on Terpsichore Street, prosecutors now say Hankton also gunned down Darvin Bessie on April 19, 2006.
Bessie, 20, was found shot in the 1800 block of Martin Luther King Boulevard, about seven blocks from the 1900 block of Josephine Street, where Hankton and his mother lived. Details on Bessie’s murder were not immediately available Friday.
The new charges accuse Telly Hankton of murder in the aid of racketeering and causing death through use of a firearm.
All 13 defendants are due back in court June 27 to be rearraigned in front of Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby.
Hankton, now 38 and locked away since his arrest nearly five years ago after Reed’s killing, remains a notorious criminal figure in New Orleans. An Orleans Parish jury convicted him nearly three years ago of gunning down Stewart under the bright streetlights of South Claiborne Avenue outside the Jazz Daiquiri Lounge, with four successive shots to Stewart’s cheek.
Hankton’s conviction and life sentence came in a second trial, after an earlier jury deadlocked over Stewart’s murder following 11th-hour alibis from two women who later were charged with perjury — first by Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, then by the feds.
Less than a week after Hankton’s sentencing, a gunman went after the brother of a key eyewitness at both Hankton trials, fatally shooting Curtis Matthews within steps of where Stewart was killed outside the daiquiri store. The brazen killing — apparently in retaliation for John Matthews’ testimony — prompted Mayor Mitch Landrieu to call out Hankton, his family and associates.
“We’re coming to get you,” Landrieu said to the cameras.
Days later, police arrested Walter “Urkel” Porter, the bespectacled alleged hitman for the Hankton clan.
Previously described as New Orleans’ most dangerous criminal, Hankton is among five defendants in the case who could face the death penalty, pending a decision by Justice Department officials in Washington. That decision has remained pending as attorneys for Hankton and the four others facing death have fought to dismiss the indictment, alleging prosecutorial misconduct.
Hankton’s cousins Thomas “Squirt” Hankton and Andre Hankton, as well as Porter and Kevin Jackson, also face the specter of the death penalty.
Federal prosecutors accuse the clan of running a drug-fueled violent crime ring since at least 1996. The indictment now names members of the group in five specific murders.
Shirley Hankton, meanwhile, is accused of lying to a federal grand jury, laundering money and hiding Telly Hankton’s cache of cocaine from law enforcement, among other things,
Telly Hankton’s attorney, Arthur “Buddy” Lemann, could not be reached Friday.
Telly Hankton and others appeared in federal court last month for a hearing at which FBI agents and two reporters for the New Orleans Advocate faced questions about a meeting that took place days before the grand jury returned the 2012 indictment. After two days of testimony, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman rejected the argument that federal authorities crossed the legal line in talking to the reporters, denying a motion to quash the indictment.
Also named in the indictment are Nakia Hankton, George “Black” Jackson, Derrick “Dump” Smothers, Troy Hankton, Netthany Schexnayder, Sana Johnson and Terrell Smothers.
Separately, Porter awaits trial on federal bank robbery charges for his role in a pair of armed heists, both in 2011, at Capital One bank branches on Elysian Fields Avenue and in Metairie.
The two bank robberies netted about $134,000, federal prosecutors claim. Some bills ended up stained with red bank security ink. Porter allegedly paid associates to launder the stained cash through machines at Harrah’s Casino downtown.
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