Walter “Urkel” Porter rarely removed his wire-rim glasses, carried two guns at all times and bragged frequently about his paid murders, two neighborhood crime partners recalled from the witness stand this week.
In the second week of a federal racketeering trial centered on accused Central City drug lord Telly Hankton, prosecutors have turned their focus to his alleged go-to hit man, through the testimony of Porter’s closest friends.
Through most of 2011, Brian “Beano” Hayes said, he and Porter rode around the city in Porter’s blue Oldsmobile Aurora. Or they would take the black Mercedes sedan that Porter had wrested from a deadbeat client — collateral on a $20,000 hit he had executed with brutal efficiency in September 2010.
Porter and Hayes, who grew up together around Valence and Freret streets, would plot crimes, including the armed robberies of two Capital One branches that summer that netted $134,000 in stolen cash, Hayes said.
Porter often would boast about his blossoming résumé, mimicking a nightly newscast over his next planned killing.
“He might say like, ‘This how the news gonna be: Breaking news ... 27-year-old man shot with (dozens of) bullets ... DOA, at the scene!’ ” Hayes testified Monday.
Federal prosecutors continue to call mostly convicted friends and associates of Hankton or Porter as they plow through scores of alleged “overt acts” contained in the first of 24 counts in a federal indictment centered on Hankton’s allegedly murderous exploits and scorn for the criminal justice system.
Most of those witnesses have said they knew either Porter or Hankton, but not both, and that they never saw them together.
Defense attorneys for Porter and Hankton, along with co-defendants Andre Hankton and Kevin Jackson, have emphasized the 1.6 miles that separated the Hanktons’ stronghold on Josephine Street from the haunts of Porter’s Uptown clan, which included Hayes, Jerod “Fedi” Fedison and former Cash Money Records rapper Christopher “B.G.” Dorsey, among others.
Fedison testified Tuesday that Porter and Telly Hankton knew each other from years earlier, when they shared space at a state juvenile detention facility. Fedison said he knew Hankton only by reputation, for “thugging.”
“Everybody knew all of us. Our names ring through the streets,” Fedison testified. “We ’hood heroes.”
Hayes and Fedison both are serving 20-year prison terms and acknowledged they are hoping for reductions in return for their testimony against Porter.
“Still to right now, as I speak here on the stand, I love him, and I will always love him,” Fedison said of Porter.
Hayes testified that the business relationship between Hankton and Porter took off in 2009. He said Porter solicited the Hankton murder account, enlisting the aid of Aaron Smith, a friend from the 13th Ward whose sister gave birth to twins by Hankton.
Porter’s first paid hit for Hankton — the June 20, 2009, slaying of Hankton rival Jessie “TuTu” Reed — also was his proudest moment, his friends said.
“He liked to talk about that particular murder ’cause that’s like in the streets called a ‘stamp’ murder,” Hayes said, “because he hit him 50 times.”
To lock down his coveted role with the Hankton clan, Porter knew he had to spring the CEO — Telly — and that meant killing witnesses who could send Hankton to prison, Hayes said.
Hankton “was gonna bless his game, make him financially straight,” Hayes said of Porter. “He was trying to see to it that he got out.”
Hankton never did, but it wasn’t for lack of effort, say prosecutors. The indictment accuses Porter of committing three of the five murders attributed to the Hankton clan, including the killings of Reed, a witness to Reed’s murder and another witness’s brother.
Two weeks after Reed’s murder, Hasan “Hockie” Williams, who had identified Hankton as the shooter he saw kill Reed, was killed in New Orleans East. Fedison said he recalled Porter boasting of his stealth in that July 4 hit, how he waited for Williams to run in his house and come back outside before unloading.
“Where was he shot?” asked Majeeda Snead, Hankton’s defense attorney.
“Everywhere,” Fedison replied, thinking of body parts rather than location.
Hankton, who was free on $1 million bail in the earlier murder of Darnell “Durney” Stewart when Reed was killed, was back behind bars by the time Williams was killed. A jury in 2011 convicted Hankton in Stewart’s killing and sentenced him to life in prison. Reed’s killing is listed in the federal indictment.
Hayes and Fedison echoed the same story they heard Porter tell over and over about Reed’s killing: that he, Hankton and a third man — a Hankton cousin — pulled up alongside Reed on Terpsichore Street. Hankton jumped out and fired first, downing Reed; Porter then emptied two extended magazines into Reed. The cousin also fired, they said.
Snead pressed both witnesses over why, if Porter was the hired gun, Hankton would bother to join in Reed’s killing.
Hayes called it happenstance, saying Porter told him they’d come across Reed while reconnoitering the neighborhood.
“Telly was showing him a little spot TuTu be at. As he was showing him, Telly jumped out, he (Porter) jumped out,” Hayes said. “Telly hit him, and (Porter) stood over him, hit him 50 times. The cousin came up, hit him a few times, and they fled the scene.”
Stewart and Reed, the two slain rival drug dealers, were suspected but never charged in the December 2007 killing of George “Cup” Hankton.
“It’s so personal. It’s just like, wherever they catch him, they kill him,” Fedison said of Telly Hankton’s motivation after that killing. “If someone went to kill my family member, it’s personal. I want to take part of it.”
But it was a botched hit on Hankton’s behalf that Porter couldn’t shake, Hayes said.
Daiquiri shop owner John Matthews, a witness to Stewart’s murder, was attacked at his home in New Orleans East in October 2010, surviving at least 17 gunshots. Matthews fired from the ground at one of his assailants with a Derringer double-barreled pistol set to shotgun mode, he has testified.
He later identified a Hankton cousin, Thomas “Squirt” Hankton — who has pleaded guilty in the racketeering case — as the one who blasted his way in through the door. But he never identified the second shooter, who left him peppered with 9 mm bullet holes.
Hayes testified Monday that Porter lamented his botched assignment and that afterward, Porter once drove him to a Milan Street address that was tied to Matthews, hoping to make amends.
“He didn’t get the job done. He basically let Telly down by not killing (Matthews),” Hayes said.
Days after a judge handed Telly Hankton his mandatory life sentence in Stewart’s murder, Matthews’ brother, Curtis Matthews, was gunned down by a South Claiborne Avenue daiquiri shop. Prosecutors claim Porter killed him.
Porter and Hankton are seated about 10 feet from each other in U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman’s courtroom. Porter sits away from the others, and he frequently can be heard muttering his unhappiness over the proceedings and describing “very serious things that’s going on that’s being covered up.”
Porter spoke up again Tuesday, drawing a threat from Feldman to have him removed from the courtroom.
The fact Porter likes to talk, in or out of a courtroom, doesn’t mean he’s blowing smoke, his friends said.
“He bragged. I can’t really say exaggerated,” Hayes said.
“People get shot 50 times, 30 times, 20 times, whatever,” Fedison said. “He ain’t got to stretch it.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.