VOL. 127 | NO. 32 | Thursday, February 16, 2012
Jury Hears Recording of Hit Man Talking With Petties Target
By Bill Dries
Tobias Pride said the drug kingpin who hired him to kill Antonio Allen in 2002 had proof “in black and white” that Allen had been cooperating with law enforcement.
Pride was such a reluctant witness Wednesday, Feb. 15, for the government in the ongoing Petties drug organization trial that he asked twice for his attorney to be present during cross examination. The second time the trial was stopped for an hour until attorney Gerald Skahan talked with his client and then sat in the courtroom during the rest of Pride’s testimony.
Pride was more forthcoming in a recording made by Mario Stewart, another member of the organization who was cooperating with authorities and wearing a wire for them – just as Allen had.
“I seen it in black and white,” Pride told Stewart of the inside knowledge as Stewart pushed Pride on whether Pride had killed Allen earlier.
The recording is the latest indication in the trial that the Petties drug organization endured because it had some knowledge of what police were doing or who was cooperating.
As in past days, some of the testimony had no immediate connection to the actions of Martin Lewis and Clinton Lewis who are on trial on charges of drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder for hire.
Pride’s cousin, Orlando Pride, testified Tuesday that Geraldine Galloway, the president of a bail bond company, had told Petties that Allen was an informant. And, according to Orlando Pride, she had “a connect” to authorities in general.
“Ain’t nobody seen me do that,” Tobias Pride said at one point of Allen’s murder on the recording. At other points, Pride chastised Stewart for trying to get him to talk about it. But Pride eventually admitted it and the recording sealed Stewart’s fate. He too was killed when the recording turned up in Pride’s state murder case and confirmed what were already strong suspicions in the organization that Stewart was cooperating.
Pride, in the recording, told Stewart he had been hired to kill Stewart but that he wouldn’t do it because they were close friends.
“I’m contracted to do you. I can’t do it,” Pride said at one point in the conversation with Stewart. “You hear me.”
“So they got 50 (thousand dollars) for my head,” Stewart replied.
“It’s not in me,” Pride said.
Stewart denied being an informant throughout the conversation he was recording.
He seemed frantic at the beginning of the recording littered with the sound of babies crying and several people talking at once as he and Pride talked at Stewart’s home.
“I gave up easy money for you,” Pride told Stewart. “You a easy task. You hear me?”
Pride said he saw Stewart with his kids and could have killed him nine months earlier.
“I was in your backyard. I could see your kitchen,” he added.
Pride also said he was angry because he hadn’t been paid the full $100,000 he was to get from Lorenzo Taylor for killing Allen and was only paid $75,000.
Later in the day, a court reporter and Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly read from federal grand jury testimony by Martin Lewis in April 2005.
Lewis told the grand jury that Pride couldn’t have killed Allen because he was in a house near the shooting with him and five other people who heard the ten gunshots that killed Allen shortly after he left the gathering.
Prosecutors who questioned Pride before the grand jury were openly skeptical about Lewis’s apparently voluntary appearance before the grand jury three years after the murder when Lewis had never contacted police before.
Defense attorneys grilled Pride on the deal he made with federal prosecutors not to charge him with murder for hire. Pride pleaded to a state charge of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Allen 10 times. He is more than half way through a 13 year sentence to state prison and has already been turned down for parole once.
Defense attorney Anne Tipton showed a picture of Allen dead in the driver's seat of his car on the large screen in the courtroom to open her cross examination.
"You're a cold blooded killer aren't you?" she asked. Pride said no.
"As long as its over $50,000, you'll kill somebody. Won't you?" she asked. "You had a conscience about killing Mr. Stewart. But you had no conscience about hiding in the bushes and killing Antonio Allen."
At one point, Pride left the stand during a break in the trial and nodded at both defendants as he walked to a holding area outside the courtroom.
The jury heard from Billy Ray Myles late in Wednesday’s session. Myles testified that Clinton Lewis chased him down, beat him and shot him in the leg in 2004 after Myles stole a gun and some marijuana from one of the drug stash houses Lewis controlled.
Myles showed jurors where his leg wound was. Myles also admitted that when Lewis was tried on state charges for the shooting, he lied and said he didn’t know who shot him.
“I feared for my family and my life,” Myles said as Lewis sat at the defense table watching him. “People were already coming up missing and dead.”
The defense cross examination of Myles is the first order of business Thursday, Feb. 16.
Before Myles, Tameka Matthews testified that she saw Lewis shoot Myles in the leg and recognized him from the neighborhood and because they went to school together. She also identified Lewis in a police photo line-up that followed.
“Did you want to be here today,” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney David Pritchard.
“No.” she replied, much more audible than she had been for much of her testimony.
In other developments, attorneys were preparing a subpoena for an Olive Branch, Ms. police officer who investigated the 2006 death of Marcus Turner, whose body was found there.
Officer Kevin McKenzie initially said he would not return to the U.S. from Honduras to testify and the subpoena is only good within the U.S. Although if McKenzie were to return to the U.S. later he could face legal problems for dodging the subpoena.
Much of Wednesday’s discussion between Federal Judge Hardy Mays and attorneys on both sides was how to arrange transportation from Honduras to Memphis for McKenzie.
The defense wants to question McKenzie about his investigation of Turner’s murder and particularly about testing of a gun belong to Marcus Brandon – a one-time codefendant in the Petties case.
McKenzie wrote in his case notes that Memphis authorities told him a bullet from Turner did not match Brandon’s gun. But attorneys for Clinton Lewis want to see the ballistics report that verifies that.
The murder of Marcus Turner is one of the counts Clinton Lewis is facing in the ongoing trial. McKenzie’s 27-pages of notes on the homicide show Vacha Vaughn, another former codefendant told McKenzie that Lewis and Brandon were the last two people seen with Turner and that they forced him into the trunk of Brandon’s car with guns drawn.