A New Orleans man who admitted he drove to Atlanta and ditched a blood-smeared van that authorities say was used last year to dump the bodies of a Reserve couple into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans, appeared Wednesday in federal court, where a judge sentenced him to time served for taking the stolen Dodge Caravan across state lines.
Frank Mike Jr., 46, pleaded guilty in August while denying he knew anything about a plot to kill Kenneth and Lekeitha Joseph and sink their bodies by using hefty kettle bells.
Mike, who has spent about 19 months behind bars, faced six months to a year in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance said.
Mike’s attorney, David Arena, suggested his client is prepared to plead guilty as well to state charges in Orleans Parish, where he is accused of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and being an accessory to murder.
“Had he known what the vehicle may have been involved in, he certainly wouldn’t have done it,” Arena said.
New Orleans police discovered the couple’s bodies in March, bound with rope in the canal. The coroner ruled they were drowned.
Mike contacted Louisiana State Police weeks later and told them he found the van in his driveway in the 8400 block of Beechwood Court in New Orleans. Then he got a call from his nephew, Steven Bradley.
He said Bradley told him that “we pulled off a little move” in the vehicle.
Mike asked if he could drive the van to Atlanta to go clothes shopping, he admitted in a factual basis underpinning his guilty plea.
While in Atlanta, Mike said, he saw news reports indicating the van might be related to the missing couple. He then drove it to an apartment complex in Atlanta, wiped it down for fingerprints and abandoned it, the factual basis states.
In court Wednesday, Mike balked at an order to pay more than $13,000 in restitution as part of his sentence, mostly to the insurance company that paid out to Kenneth Joseph’s sister for the stolen 2010 Caravan.
“I pled guilty because I needed to get back to my kids, not necessarily that I knew what was going on with that car,” Mike told the judge. “They knew I had nothing to do with it. I thought it was unfair, that I had to pay for it.”
A state grand jury indictment from August 2014 charged Mike along with Bradley, Horatio Johnson and former state prison guard Brittany Martin. Those three, but not Mike, were charged with two counts each of murder, among other counts. Authorities allege that Martin and Johnson, an ex-con who was related to Kenneth Joseph, became romantically linked from opposite sides of prison bars.
Martin pleaded guilty in January to an obstruction count, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office dropped the murder and conspiracy counts against her. She awaits sentencing before Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard.
Charges remain pending against Johnson, Bradley and Mike.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Redmann handled the federal case.
“I’m glad to hear the defendant is taking responsibility” with an anticipated guilty plea in state court, Redmann said.
Mike will remain jailed on a parole violation pending resolution of the state charges, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office said.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.