VOL. 127 | NO. 43 | Friday, March 2, 2012
Fed Drug Trial Testimony Ends Fourth Week
By Bill Dries
Martin Lewis jumped Marcus Brandon as soon as Brandon came on the line in May 2007 during a jailhouse phone call three-wayed by Lewis’ girlfriend using another prisoner’s ID number.
“Keep playing with me,” Lewis shouted over and over, sprinkling obscenities and the n-word around the phrase liberally.
It was soon after Mario McNeil had been shot to death in a restaurant. Lewis was suspected and eventually charged with the murder as part of the federal case against the Craig Petties drug organization.
Authorities were closing in on Brandon for other reasons – and were closing in on his close friend, Clinton Lewis, who Brandon described this week as his “running buddy” within the organization.
In a steady, lower tone of voice, Brandon responded, “Shut the hell up,” and, “That’s what you called to say?”
Then Lewis said something that promises to figure prominently in his ongoing trial along with Clinton Lewis in Memphis Federal Court.
The jury in the case heard Martin Lewis say to Brandon, “I’m going to ‘x’ you and your folks out. … I just laid a n—’s ass to rest.”
After the call with Brandon ended but while Martin Lewis was still on the phone line with his girlfriend, he repeated, “I’ll ‘x’ him out. I just laid a n—’s ass out.”
Brandon testified Wednesday, Feb. 29, that he took the remark to mean Lewis was threatening to kill him and that Lewis was referring to the murder of McNeil.
Brandon thought the threats were an attempt to get money from him.
Brandon just finished a five-year, 10-month prison sentence for racketeering conspiracy in August and is about to complete serving six months in a halfway house.
Attorneys for Martin Lewis argued before the trial got under way Feb. 6 that the recording as well as a transcript should be excluded. Federal Court Judge Hardy Mays denied the motion then, and again just before the recording was played for jurors.
Meanwhile, Brandon was a more hesitant witness as he testified about the late 2006 kidnapping, torture and murder of Marcus Turner. Turner’s nude body was found in Olive Branch three days after he went missing. Clinton Lewis is specifically charged with his murder in the federal case.
Brandon, whom other witnesses have said was rarely seen without Clinton Lewis, took a long pause after Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly asked him if he knew about the kidnapping.
“No sir, not really,” he said.
Then there was one in a series of long pauses by Gilluly as well as a set of bench conferences among the attorneys and Mays out of hearing range of jurors.
Brandon eventually acknowledged he saw Clinton Lewis with Turner and asked Lewis what he was doing.
“He told me it ain’t got nothing to do with me,” he testified. “I left and went back to rolling my weed. … I really wasn’t paying no attention to what he was doing. … I didn’t know what was going on.”
He said he saw a bloodied Turner being led to a van.
“I didn’t see him no more,” Brandon added.
Defense attorneys Marty McAfee and Derek Drennan moved for a mistrial on grounds that Brandon’s testimony about the incident was so different from that of Clarence Broady, one of the men in the van, that it was clear one of them had committed perjury.
Gilluly said it was up to the jury to decide the facts of the case.
Mays denied the mistrial motion.
Meanwhile, Brandon acknowledged that he and Clinton Lewis had beaten Billy Ray Myles in 2004 for stealing drugs from a stash house belonging to Lewis, and that Lewis ended the confrontation by shooting Myles in the leg. Myles testified to the same story earlier in the trial, which enters its fifth week Monday, March 5. The attack on Myles is among the counts Clinton Lewis faces.
Brandon said he began dealing drugs in the Riverside section of South Memphis when he was 14 but didn’t work for the Petties organization, based in the area, until later. He began by selling small amounts of cocaine for his cousin Mario Stewart, another victim of the organization who was killed by Broady for cooperating and wearing a wire for authorities investigating the organization.