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VOL. 127 | NO. 1 | Monday, January 2, 2012

Fed Drug Case Defendant Wants New Atty.

By Bill Dries

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Just two and a half weeks before he goes on trial for racketeering, drug conspiracy and murder-for-hire charges, Clinton Lewis wants a new attorney.

He and Martin Lewis are the two remaining defendants in a drug case that is the largest ever brought in Memphis federal court.

They were allegedly part of the drug organization headed by Craig Petties with direct ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel of Mexico. Nine defendants were charged in seven indictments between 2002 and 2008.

Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis are scheduled to go to trial Jan. 17 before Federal Judge Hardy Mays.

Clinton Lewis claims in a handwritten pro se motion filed Dec. 22 that he and his attorneys, Anne Tipton and James Simmons, are not “agreeing on the strategy in which counsel is using.”

Lewis also claimed his attorneys’ “only concern is to communicate with the government without my knowledge.”

Meanwhile, Mays has backed an earlier recommendation by Magistrate Judge Diane K. Vescovo to allow the use at trial of a phone call allegedly made by Martin Lewis from the Shelby County Corrections Center some time before April 2007.

During the three-way phone call, Martin Lewis allegedly called one-time codefendant Marcus Brandon. According to testimony by a corrections officer before Vescovo in October, Lewis can be heard telling Brandon that he had just “exed” someone. The prosecution is expected to contend Lewis was threatening Brandon to keep Brandon from possibly testifying.

According to the set of federal indictments, Martin Lewis killed Mario McNeal in March 2007 on orders from Petties and other higher-ups in the organization.

McNeal was considered a “threat” to the organization, according to the indictment, which doesn’t elaborate.

“(Martin) Lewis has failed to show that he had an expectation of privacy when, as an inmate, he was put on notice that his telephone calls were being recorded,” Mays wrote, adding that the claim of an expectation of privacy was a “ruse.”

“Lewis knew that his telephone calls were being recorded. He used another person’s personal identification number to place the call to Marcus Brandon in an effort to avoid being identified.”

Brandon turned up for the first time in the fourth version of the Petties indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in late 2007.

When he and Lewis had the alleged phone conversation, Brandon had not yet been arrested on the federal charges of drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder/kidnapping for hire.

He was arrested in early December 2007 on the counts. The redacted copy of a superseding indictment from March 2008 alleges Brandon and the Lewises “engaged in violence against people believed to be enemies of the enterprise.”

Those included Billy Ray Myles, who was suspected by the organization of stealing cocaine. Brandon and Clinton Lewis allegedly assaulted him in November 2004 with Lewis allegedly shooting Myles in the leg.

The charges against Brandon in the Petties case were “terminated” Sept. 17, 2008.

Brandon was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of drug possession with intent to distribute in a separate case. The indictment reads that Brandon had more than 50 grams of crack cocaine in October 2006. And he was arrested on the indictment in November 2007, a month before his arrest on the Petties-related charges.

That case was dismissed in January 2008 “upon motion of the United States and for good cause shown,” according to the order signed by then Federal Judge Bernice Donald.

Just before the New Year’s holiday break, Mays denied two other motions by the attorneys for Clinton Lewis.

They sought a pretrial hearing on statements by alleged co-conspirators to determine if there was a conspiracy.

Mays said he will instead rule during the trial on whether the government has met the standards for proving a conspiracy by a preponderance of the evidence. If prosecutors haven’t, Mays would then instruct the jury to disregard the statements.

He also denied a motion for daily transcripts of testimony during the trial.

“(Clinton) Lewis’ two attorneys are capable of taking notes and asking witnesses about any statements they make during trial,” Mays wrote. “If Lewis seeks to impeach a witness, he may do so when the witness testifies.”

Mays added that if the government is provided daily transcripts in some form, they will also be provided to the defense.

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