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VOL. 127 | NO. 59 | Monday, March 26, 2012

Petties Jury Convicts on All but One Count

By Bill Dries

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The jury in the Petties drug organization trial has convicted the two defendants on all but one of the drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder-for-hire counts they faced.

Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis were found guilty of 10 of the 11 federal charges they faced. The verdict came after less than a day of deliberation and five weeks of testimony.

Clinton Lewis was acquitted of the murder-for-hire count involving the 2006 murder of Marcus Turner. But he was convicted of kidnapping Turner as part of a racketeering conspiracy.

Both were convicted of murder for hire charges in the 2007 murder of Mario McNeil who was gunned down in a restaurant on Kirby Parkway.

Clinton and Martin Lewis are scheduled to be sentenced by Federal Court Judge Hardy Mays on June 29.

The Lewises were accused of being part of the violent multistate drug organization headed by Craig Petties that had direct ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel of Mexico. They were specifically accused of being hit men for the organization in a case that involved the murders of six people.

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton called the organization "nothing less than a cancer to this community -- a cancer that spread throughout this region."

"They were members of one the largest and most violent, notorious criminal oirganziations in the history of Memphis and Shelby County, actually throughout West Tennessee," Stanton said. "We'll continue to take our streets back one case at a time. ... This high level organization was very cold and calculated and an enterprise that profitted millions of dollars that flowed not only through Tennessee."

Petties pleaded guilty in 2009, a year after he was captured in Mexico following six years in in which he ran the drug organization from afar. Mays is scheduled to sentence Petties next week.

Defense attorneys for the Lewises said they will appeal the convictions and continue to question the reliability of government witnesses, most of whom are former members of the drug ring.

"We have to respect the jury's verdict after sitting here for seven weeks," said Marty McAfee, representing Martin Lewis. "But we are disappointed and plan to appeal on several issues."

"This is not the end of the process," said Anne Tipton, attorney for Clinton Lewis.

Her co-counsel, Howard Manis, said he was happy for Lewis's acquittal in the murder of Turner.

"But it makes us that much more troubled by the guilty verdict on the kidnapping charge," he said.

Stanton said the concerns raised by the defense about whether prosecution witnesses had manipulated the legal system were part of a "hard fought" trial.

"The ultimate fact finders were the jurors who sat and listened to all of the evidence," he said.

Stanton also said he hoped the convictions brought some form of closure for the families of the six murder victims whose deaths were an integral part of the case.

"Not only the families of those victims, but we as a community here in Memphis and Shelby County and west Tennessee are all victrims as well," Stanton said. "Hopefully today this will send a message that this type of conduct -- callous, brazen conduct at all levels of criminal organizations will be brought down ... and brought to justice in a very swift and severe manner."

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