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VOL. 127 | NO. 48 | Friday, March 9, 2012

Prosecution Rests in Fed Drug Trial

By Bill Dries

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The prosecution in the Craig Petties drug organization trial rested in case in chief Thursday, March 8, after four weeks of testimony.

And defense attorneys for the two defendants in the federal case – Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis – will begin presenting their case Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly ended the government’s case in the largest drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder-for-hire case ever brought in Memphis federal court with several large boxes of cocaine seized in a drug case in North Carolina.

The final witnesses were federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents who seized and analyzed the cocaine in the arrest of Humberto Sanchez, a drug trafficker with connections to the Petties organization. Sanchez testified earlier.

Their testimony and the exhibits brought an end to the prosecution case that began in February with lots of testimony about the scope of the organization and its direct connection to the splintered Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

The jury heard a lot about drug kingpin Petties, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to 19 counts including several murder-for-hire charges. His plea was sealed for more than a year before it was revealed in court records. Petties did not testify during the trial.

But in the last week, prosecutors narrowed their focus on Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis.

The prosecution in the Craig Petties drug organization trial has rested in case in chief, some four weeks after testimony began. The defense will begin presenting its case on Monday.

When they were arrested separately within months of each other in 2007, neither went quietly.

Memphis Police officers testified that both tried to run.

Martin Lewis, arrested in April 2007 as part of a homicide investigation, led police on a car chase and then foot chase to a vacant house on Waldorf Avenue. MPD officer Brian Beasley testified. Beasley said when he confronted Lewis at the house, he had to wrestle him to the ground as Lewis yelled at him.

Lewis was eventually indicted as part of the federal drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder-for-hire investigation specifically for the March 2007 murder of Mario McNeil.

That November, police who came to question Clinton Lewis and serve an arrest warrant at an apartment complex caught him trying to go out the back window of a second-story apartment. He was later charged in the federal case specifically with the 2006 kidnapping and murder of Marcus Turner.

A month after his arrest, as Clinton Lewis was at the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building Downtown and being handcuffed with other prisoners including Clarence Whitelow – also part of the Petties drug organization – Patrice Rudd, a corrections guard, testified she heard Lewis tell Whitelow, “Don’t talk about the case. Don’t talk about nothing.”

Five months after that, Clinton Lewis was meeting with federal prosecutors and investigators for a proffer session – a session in which he offers to tell what he knows for a possible plea deal.

Brian Sanders, a deputy U.S. marshal who was part of the session, testified that Lewis offered a version of the abduction of Turner that is essentially the one given earlier in the trial by Marcus Brandon, the Petties organization member who worked with Lewis on a daily basis. Lewis said he was ordered by Petties in Mexico to abduct Turner to get more information on nearly 200 kilograms of cocaine stolen from the organization.

At the proffer session, Lewis, according to Sanders, said he kidnapped Turner but then turned him over to others and never saw him again. Brandon, according to Lewis, had no involvement in the kidnapping.

The version is at odds with the testimony of Clarence Broady and Carlos Whitelow who say Clinton Lewis turned a beaten, bloody and bound Turner over to them for several days and then came to reclaim him along with Brandon.

Lewis also said he was paid $5,000 by Petties to keep quiet about the 2006 murder of Mario Stewart who was killed because he was cooperating with the government investigation of Petties.

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