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VOL. 127 | NO. 50 | Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Petties Case Court Documents Suggest Post Conviction Plans

By Bill Dries

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Toward the end of the prosecution’s case last week in the Craig Petties drug organization trial, jurors heard a corrections officers say that Clinton Lewis, one of the two defendants, told Carlos Whitelow, another member of the organization, to keep quiet and not tell prosecutors anything about the organization.

Whitelow testified earlier in the trial, in which Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis face charges of drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder for hire. He is one of numerous organization members who made a deal with prosecutors in the largest drug conspiracy case ever brought in Memphis federal court.

Whitelow talked about the exchange with Clinton Lewis during a proffer with prosecutors and federal drug agents – a statement in which he talked about any information he might have that would prompt them to make a plea deal with him.

A transcript of the interview also shows those in the organization were talking with those who cooperated about life in the organization after the trial is over and everybody is sentenced.

“(Clinton Lewis) also told me that, you know, whenever this situation was over with for me, he also told me that I guess Petties (is) waiting on – he got people waiting on people to come to Texas,” Whitelow said.

Whitelow made the statement, which was recorded with his knowledge, before Petties was captured in Mexico in January 2008. The transcript was released last week as part of a pending defense motion for a mistrial.

He also said Kerry Shelton, another high-ranking member of the organization, was directing those who were cooperating on what to say.

Whitelow told investigators and prosecutors that Shelton told him, “Don’t say nothing about the murders if they ask you, but he did say if they ask you, don’t lie.”

Whitelow made the statement in a proffer.

“(Clinton Lewis) also told me that, you know, whenever this situation was over with for me, he also told me that I guess Petties (is) waiting on — he got people waiting on people to come to Texas.”

–Carlos Whitelow

Shelton is among those who later pleaded guilty to charges in another case related to the drug organization. Shelton was sentenced to 17 years and three months in prison on drug conspiracy charges. He was not a witness for the government during its case in chief.

Defense attorneys Marty McAfee and Anne Tipton told the jury in their opening statements last month that their case would focus on attempts by higher-ups in the organization to manipulate the case so those higher-ups did less time and got better deals than those lower in the organization.

Each has confronted those organization members testifying for the government asking them “whose truth” they were telling in their testimony.

Meanwhile, taped testimony by former Olive Branch Police Detective Kevin McKenzie will not be seen by the jury. McKenzie was subpoenaed from Honduras, where he now lives, to testify about his investigation into the 2006 murder of Marcus Turner, whose body was found in Olive Branch.

Defense attorneys wanted to question McKenzie about suspects he investigated in addition to Clinton Lewis, who is accused of Turner’s kidnapping and murder in the case now being tried in Memphis federal court.

The jury has already heard plenty of testimony about nearly 200 kilograms of cocaine that came up missing from one of the organization’s stash houses that fall. Turner was abducted because those in the organization believed he could lead them to whoever took it.

Turner was held for three days at several locations around the city and beaten and tortured before being shot to death. Several witnesses testified about seeing Turner bound with duct tape, blindfolded and nude at a house where organization members gathered.

Clarence Broady, who was one of those who held Turner during that time, testified that he came to believe Turner knew nothing about the missing cocaine. Turner was ordered killed by drug kingpin Craig Petties because Turner knew too much by the time the organization concluded he didn’t know who took the drugs.

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