December 8, 2018

WILL MAYOR de BLASIO TESTIFY in JAMES GRANT NYPD CORRUPTION TRIAL?...

Reporting by Don Sikorski

Defense attorneys in the immensely heated federal trial of James Grant and Jeremy Reichberg have filed a motion to have Mayor de Blasio testify as the proceedings continue in the courtroom at the Southern District of New York City. The motion was filed after lawyers for Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York filed a motion to quash the subpoena.This follows the inflammatory testimony of key government witness Jonah Rechnitz last week, and his many statements of having a deep personal connection with not only Mayor de Blasio, but key campaign players like Ross Offinger and the upper echelon of the NYPD. The filing also included personal emails between Rechnitz and the Mayor, made available exclusively to Law and Crime.

In the filing by Defense Attorney John Meringolo, the defense states that “Rechnitz has provided us a more fulsome basis on which to oppose the motion to quash the subpoena to testify. Particularly in the recent days, Mayor de Blasio has been publicly discussing Mr. Rechnitz, describing him as a “very troubled person who’s committed crimes and has lied incessantly.” By the Mayor’s own public admissions, he has information about Mr. Rechnitz that is directly relevant to the issues here. “

Meringolo further states, “After Mayor de Blasio won the New York City mayoral election, Mr. Rechnitz describes him and Mr. Reichberg as being excited because they were “very substantial donors,” “had an in with his chief fundraiser,” and had their “own relationship with Bill de Blasio at that point.” Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg were subsequently appointed to an inaugural committee. Mayor de Blasio also asked Mr. Rechnitz to donate to a campaign to keep the New York State senate under Democratic control, to which Mr. Rechnitz donated the maximum allowable amount of $102,000 “to have the effect that I’m his guy.”  Mr. Rechnitz surmised that he violated election laws when donating the Mayor de Blasio’s campaign because he obtained the money through straw donors who he was illegally reimbursing.  Mr. Rechnitz alleges that Mr. Reichberg was aware of these activities and that they “were part of it together.”

One can speculate that the defense really wants to get to the core of whether anything Jonah Rechnitz testifies to is true, and accurate. If Mayor de Blasio feels he is a liar and has testified about dealings with him, personally it would get to the issue of whether he is a credible witness in the Grant and Reichberg case.

In other stunning developments within the case, The daily grind of the trial has been a bit bizarre as the government has paraded a list of witnesses that at times have been comical, sad, and plain confusing. These witnesses upon cross examination have led many courtroom observers wondering why this is a federal trial to begin with instead of an internal, discipline problem handled within the NYPD.  The contention by the government is that Grant and Reichberg engaged in a conspiracy to get favors from the NYPD, and in return, Grant received gifts including a trip on a private jet, toys at Christmas, new windows for his house, and possibly a white, picket fence for his yard.The more interesting aspect of the circus trial is actually taking place outside the presence of the jury in hearings about motions that start before the jury is present at 9 AM and sidebar conversations held between the lawyers in open court. It appears as if US Attorney Jessica Lonegran and Martin Bell want to spend more time arguing arcane, legal motions and preventing both defense attorneys from arguing the case, than they do showing concrete evidence that there was a quid quo pro going on between Grant and Reichberg.

One stellar argument on behalf of Martin Bell is to have the judge ban the many Hassidic men and women from holding laminated cards of various Rabbis who have passed away and other religious memorabilia. In a portion of the transcript from last week, Bell and Lonegran argued that holding these religious totems could possibly intimidate the jury and other Hasidic witnesses. This conversation devolved even further when the Honorable Judge, Gregory H. Woods, likened the laminated prayer cards to when Bloods and Crips wear red or blue bandanas inside a criminal court proceeding.

This ludicrous notion continued on the morning of November 26th, US Attorney Martin Bell, yet again spent close to thirty minutes outside the ears of the jury arguing that both Jimmy Grant and Jeremy Reichberg were displaying religious totems on the defense table in sight of the jury. Grant has a pair of Catholic rosary beads, and Reichberg, a Hassidic Jew, has a number of prayer sheets and other religious paraphernalia. Martin Bell went on to cite an article that had been printed in the Staten Island Advance, about these religious totems, and that the jury would be intimidated, as well as the possible witnesses. In arguing for the defense, John Meringolo stated that at a previous federal trial an alleged Philadelphia mobster, Joey Merlino, in plain sight of the jury, used religious prayer beads every day at trial. One has to question why the United States government is involved in conversation about these religious keepsakes. The courtroom most days is packed with Hassidic men and women praying openly with pamphlets and laminated sheets of prayer. In citing a Wikipedia entry, Martin Bell went further, stating that one of the rabbis on these laminated prayer cards was a famous Rabbi, who was associated with rats or rodents. It is not professional for a United States Attorney to cite Wikipedia; however, it could be a strategy to rattle the defense. To date, there doesn’t seem to be any meat on the bone when it comes to bribes given to Jimmy Grant. Reichberg was more of a police buff than he was a financial player and manipulator.

It was no coincidence that the government’s key witness, Jona Rechnitz, would take the stand immediately after this bizarre soliloquy from the government. Many people in the galley of the courtroom were laughing, enraged, and some current, NYPD officers supporting Grant had some very choice words for the US Attorney under their breathe.

The daily court transcripts are filled with endless conversations and arguments that you need a degree from Harvard Law School to understand. One glaring point to date is the government has not presented one witness or any type of evidence of who actually was bribing whom, or what they actually got for the bribes. It reads like a comedy of errors. One witness, a contractor from Brooklyn, installed six-thousand-dollar windows in Grant’s home; however, the contractor on cross examination admitted he never asked Jimmy Grant to pay for the windows. He had only asked Jeremy Reichberg. It is also stated that the windows were faulty, causing flood damage to Grant’s home. So, if he was bribed with windows, it was a pretty poor example of police services for graft.

In another example of absurdity, the government called former call girl, Gabbi Greco, to the stand to recount her recollection of a trip on a private jet to Las Vegas with Jimmy Grant, Jonah Rechnitz, Jeremy Reichberg, and Marco Franco. In her account, she performed sexual favors for the men in a private jet that was the size of large bathroom. Greco openly took anxiety medication on the stand in front of the jury.

Additionally, on cross examination, she did not know James Grant’s full name, who picked her up, or who drove her to the airport. In FBI 302 documents from the defense, it is clear that contrary to what Greco said on the stand, it wasn’t Grant who drove her; it was a friend of Grant and Reichberg, Marco Franco. If the United States Attorney had this information, why are they allowing Greco to lie on the stand?

Greco has been the darling of the New York dailies, the reporting on this case by the New York Post has been embarrassing at best. In open court, it was revealed that former journalist, Shawn Cohen, who wrote the explosive, first cover story on the in-air NYPD orgy, decided it was a good idea to sleep with Gabbi Greco, and make her his girlfriend.

On the stand, Greco admitted that most, if not all of the information in the New York Post article written by Cohen was mostly made up and untrue. She said his words were blown out of proportion. What makes this another fantastical aspect of this case, is that what Cohen printed in the New York Post has been used as gospel by the government’s witnesses and the United States Attorney.  Further, it is alleged by sources with ties to the case that Greco might have had an improper relationship with one of the FBI agents on the case, and there were text messages as proof. The defense has asked repeatedly for the government to provide these text messages as Discovery; however, as of yet, the Judge has not ruled on this matter, nor has the government turned over any information.

With Jonah Rechnitz taking the stand the week of November 26th, 2018, the government is finally trotting out their star witness, the briber-in- chief as he has been called. It is Rechnitz, who has bragged on wiretaps and in emails presented at trial, that first he wanted to take the Mayor’s Office and then the NYPD. As Rechnitz begins to testify, it is important to follow his testimony and his version of what happened between himself and many members of the upper echelon of the NYPD.  Under questioning by Martin Bell, Rechnitz rattled off all his key relationships at One Police Plaza. This includes Chief Steven McCallister, David Colon, Michael Harrington, and his prized access point, Chief of the Department, Philip Banks.

These relationships had Jonah inside One Police Plaza, front row for the dropping of the famed, New Year’s Ball, courtside at basketball games, and kosher dinners. He has the cache to drop any name that he wants to serve his own self-interest. The problem with most of Jonah’s testimony is that per the NYPD Patrol Guide, which has been presented at trial in many forms, it is not an illegal act to accept a gift from a friend, a business associate, or anyone for that matter as a police officer. It becomes an ethics violation if the individual providing the gifts has contracts with the City of New York or does business with the department or the City.

For example, it is public knowledge that prior, NYPD Chiefs like Howard Safir took a trip on a private jet to the Academy Awards ceremony that was paid for by a cosmetics company executive. Mr. Safir and his wife, Carol were guests of George Fellows, the president and chief executive of Revlon. Within the department, sources have questioned for years the ethics and conflict of interest tightrope that Chief William Bratton navigated. Bratton is known for bringing a cadre of “consultants” with him to each new posting, and he is no stranger to private jets, fancy meals, and even facilitating gun licenses for his celebrity friends.

The United States Attorney and their overreach in this case, have chosen to sully the reputation and long storied careers of many high-ranking NYPD officers. Sources contacted by Law and Crime would only go on the record with anonymity for fear of more retribution by the FBI and United States Attorney. But, many officers who have spoken have the same viewpoint. Access to parades, meetings at One Police Plaza, fancy dinners at Kosher restaurants, and expensive gifts are grey areas, according to the NYPD Patrol Guide. These “gifts” if given in the past would have gone before an NYPD Disciplinary Board. The punishments would be taking away vacation days or docking pay. For many within the NYPD, the fact that James Grant is looking at a possible six-year jail sentence is laughable and has left many insiders scratching their heads as to the merits behind this case.

There is a fundamental problem with the story that Jonah tells. The biggest problem is perjuring himself on the stand, the morning of November 26th, 2018. His perjury and testimony are lies, and the US Attorney knows he is lying in order to implicate Jimmy Grant into a conspiracy he wasn’t a part of. In his testimony, Rechnitz states that he went to the Chief of the Department, Phil Banks and asked Banks to promote Jimmy Grant to the “posh” precinct on the Upper East Side. Through conversations with two sources, there are two major lies Rechnitz is telling. First, Phil Banks never dealt with Jimmy Grant, or had anything to do with his promotion. It would have been the decision of Police Chief Bill Bratton and his alone to promote Jimmy Grant. Second, its laughable to even speculate, that after serving twenty-years for the NYPD, and rarely if ever missing work, that Rechnitz had any influence, power or decision making when Grant was to be promoted.

 

November 11, 2018

Former FBI Agent: How the LAPD derailed my investigation into Biggie S...

G2G NEWS REPORTING BREAKS STORY

G2G News Co-Founder Don Sikorski Breaks Exclusive Story in the Daily Beast

by Justin Rohrlich and Don Sikorski

As the FBI agent who ran the investigation into the LAPD’s alleged role in the March 9, 1997 murder of hip-hop legend Biggie Smalls outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Phil Carson knows things no one else knows. He knows what’s hidden behind the black boxes in the heavily redacted case files released by the bureau in 2011; he knows how it happened; and he knows who did it. And he’s never revealed any of it publicly, to anyone—until now.

 

Carson retired from the bureau in September 2017, almost two decades after hip-hop legend Biggie Smalls, born Christopher Wallace, was shot dead outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. He worked on some of the most challenging public corruption cases the FBI had to offer, but keeping quiet about the Biggie case has, in a way, been even more difficult.

 

“You have no idea,” Carson told The Daily Beast in a series of exclusive interviews. “It didn’t just eat at me a little bit, it tore me apart pretty good.”

 

The LAPD, “all the way up to the very, very top,” did their best to protect the dirty cops Carson believes helped orchestrate Biggie’s murder. As part of that effort, powerful forces launched what Carson described as a campaign to assassinate his own character. According to Carson, these forces included the Los Angeles Times, the City Attorney of Los Angeles, members of LAPD Chief Bill Bratton’s inner circle, and cops in the department’s famed Robbery-Homicide Division.

 

“I can prove to you how they not only knew what was going on, but how they obstructed this case, how they derailed it,” said Carson. “I was young enough and naive enough not to realize how big and powerful these people were.”

 

Carson has never spoken publicly about his version of events. More than two decades after Biggie Smalls was killed, he is talking to the media for the first time.

 

“I’m glad Phil Carson, whatever’s heavy on his heart, is coming forward and letting the truth be known,” said “Big Gene” Deal, a bodyguard for Puffy Combs who witnessed the shooting and met with Carson multiple times as part of the FBI investigation. “Phil was a straight shooter. By him coming out and doing this right here, it makes me feel good.”

 

***

 

Carson grew up near Seattle, where he led his high school to the state soccer title. He accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Washington in 1982, where he earned a degree in business and finance. Carson and one of his fraternity brothers spent the summer after graduation backpacking around Europe.

 

Upon his return home, Carson decided he’d had enough of Seattle weather, so he packed up his ‘66 Mustang and drove to Southern California. There, he got his securities licenses and became a financial consultant, then a bond trader. After nearly 10 years of managing money, Carson was restless. One day, he watched The Sting and The Untouchables, back-to-back. Inspired by the onscreen exploits of Special Agents Polk, Snyder, and Ness, Carson applied for a job at the FBI. In June 1997, following 18 months of interviews, testing, background checks, and a polygraph examination, Carson reported to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia for 20 weeks of new agent training.

 

Although he was in his early 30s and several years older than most of his classmates, Carson finished first overall in physical training and defensive tactics at Quantico, and third overall in academics. With his banking and financial background, Carson was assigned to a bank fraud squad in Los Angeles.

 

Having been told by bureau veterans that the first year on the job would set the tone for the rest of his career, Carson volunteered “to be part of anything and everything.”

 

“If they needed another person to go to an interview, I would do it,” Carson said. “If they needed somebody to do surveillance on the weekend, I’d always raise my hand. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids. I would work 24 hours a day.”

 

Duly impressed, a group of more senior agents that Carson had gotten to know helped him transfer to WCC-4, a white-collar crime squad targeting public corruption.

 

Early on, Carson put together what he described as an airtight case against a corrupt ATF agent who was allegedly dealing cocaine in the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts. He had sworn statements from sources who identified the agent in photo arrays, and the agent failed a polygraph test administered by the FBI. Still, Carson says ATF brass swept the case under the rug and transferred the agent to another region—with a promotion.

 

“That was the first time that I was exposed to dealing with upper management of another agency on how they protect their own,” said Carson. “And that stuck with me as I started working these other corruption cases.”

 

The 1990s were a dark period for the LAPD. In 1991, Rodney King was beaten by LAPD officers which led to a series of departmental reforms. The officers’ acquittal the following year touched off the infamous 1992 LA riots, which led to the death of 54 people and forced LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’ retirement. Willie Williams, his successor and the LAPD’s first-ever African-American chief, only lasted one five-year term. Bernard Parks, a 32-year LAPD veteran, was sworn in as the beleaguered department’s 52nd chief on August 22, 1997.

 

At the beginning of November 1997, a Bank of America branch in South Central LA was robbed in broad daylight by off-duty LAPD officer David Mack. Mack, who wore a dark suit and sunglasses, flashed an automatic weapon and made off with $722,000 that was in the vault. Mack’s salary at that time was in the mid-$50,000 range, and he owed at least $20,000 to the IRS and nearly that much in credit card bills. However, just two days after the robbery, Mack treated two of his LAPD buddies, Sammy Martin and Rafael Perez, to a lavish trip to Las Vegas, where they stayed in a $1,500-a-night suite and gambled all night. When he got back to Los Angeles, Mack bought himself an SUV, a bunch of new furniture, and put $7,000 into his bank account.

 

Investigators immediately focused on the bank’s assistant manager Errolyn Romero, who had, suspiciously, ordered an abnormally large delivery of cash to the bank the day before. Cops gave her a lie detector test, which Romero failed.

 

After nearly a month of intense questioning, Romero finally confessed to her role in the holdup and told police that the bank had in fact been robbed by her boyfriend, David Mack.

 

Mack was arrested in early December 1997. He refused to tell investigators who his accomplices were or where he hid the money, and was later sentenced to 14 years, three months in federal prison.

 

A few months later, six pounds of cocaine was discovered missing from an LAPD evidence room.

 

The officer who had signed for it was Rafael Perez, who had checked out the cocaine under another cop’s name. A girlfriend of Perez’s then sold the drugs on the street for him.

 

Investigators from LAPD’s internal affairs division began tailing Perez, arresting him the morning of August 25, 1998. The jury deadlocked in his trial for possession of cocaine for sale, grand theft, and forgery. The better part of a year went by as Perez awaited retrial; cops looking into his alleged crimes managed to find further evidence that gave them even more leverage.

 

Perez decided to cut a deal. In exchange for a five-year prison sentence, which would mean just 16 months with credit for time served and good behavior factored in, Perez promised to tell investigators everything he knew about police misconduct within the LAPD Rampart Division. The agreement would also shield Perez from any further prosecution, and his wife, who cops said was aware of Perez’s ongoing criminal enterprise, would not face any charges.

 

“All they thought was Rafael Perez was going to come in and tell them how he was stealing cocaine out of this evidence locker and maybe implicate a few other cases regarding that,” explained Carson. “Well, Perez ends up dropping the bombshell about all this other corruption that had been going on in Rampart, including shooting unarmed people, planting throw-down guns as evidence, as well planting drug evidence on guys.”

 

It was then that the feds got involved, because, said Carson, “this is no longer just an [LAPD] internal affairs investigation. You’re talking about civil rights violations, you’re talking about a whole host of federal offenses.”

 

The FBI set up a task force called the Rampart Federal Investigation Team or RamFIT. Roughly 40 of the LAPD’s top detectives applied to join. The position meant the chosen cops would get federal credentials, a desk at the FBI office in the federal building in downtown LA, and “a huge feather in your cap as you look to promote within the ranks of the LAPD.”

 

Fewer than 10 of those 40 were picked; each was then paired up with Carson and the other FBI agents assigned to the unit. There was a supervisor from the FBI at the helm; an LAPD lieutenant who Carson says looked like Leslie Nielsen from the movie Airplane! also joined the team.

 

Perez had identified over 30-plus other Rampart Division cops as corrupt, including his partner, officer Nino Durden. Each two-man RamFIT team was then handed a portion of the wide-ranging caseload to investigate further.

 

“Initially, we’re thinking that this is going to be the absolute hands down, biggest police corruption case that this country has ever seen,” recalled Carson.

 

They spent more than a year digging into it all. But while many of Perez’s allegations turned out to be legit, some of the things he told investigators didn’t pan out, said L.J. Connolly, another FBI agent on the RamFIT team.

 

“The bottom line is, it wasn’t as big as Perez had said it was, but it wasn’t as small as we had thought, either,” Connolly told The Daily Beast. “Cases were falling apart because we couldn’t corroborate a lot of these things. So we kind of pared things down, the taskforce didn’t need to be as big as it was, and it kind of whittled down to Perez and Durden.”

 

Mack was already doing federal time in the Midwest; prosecutors had also secured a conviction against Sonya Flores, a former girlfriend of Perez’s who got 14 months for lying to the FBI.

 

RamFIT had by now been scaled down to a skeleton crew consisting of only Carson and Connolly. Over 100 convictions had been thrown out due to the cases having been illegally made by corrupt cops, and 20 officers were either forced out of the department or fired. Carson says the Assistant US Attorney on the team instructed them to focus all their attention on making airtight federal cases against Perez and Durden. They were not to look into other dirty cops at Rampart.

 

“I think [the thinking] was, ‘Let’s just take what we can win and go away,’” said Connolly, adding that a definite sense of fatigue across the entire city had set in at this point. “I know Phil and myself, we were very disappointed with that.”

 

The situation was a critical one for the LAPD, and Chief Parks very much wanted for it to end, Carson said. Carson believes Parks wanted things to go away as quickly as possible “because he did not want this to be a big black eye on LAPD.”

 

(Response from Parks TK)

 

It was widely known that Parks “had higher aspirations,” said Carson, noting that Parks was elected to the Los Angeles City Council after he left law enforcement. According to internal FBI documents, it was also well-known within the LAPD that Mack and Perez, who both did security for Suge Knight and Death Row Records during their off-hours, were two of Parks’ “personal recruits” into the department and Parks made obvious efforts to protect them. Parks’ daughter Michelle was also “a known Death Row groupie,” say the FBI’s case files.

 

During the first week of June 2001, while Carson was winding the Rampart investigation down, his supervisor, Gene Stapleton, called him into his office.

 

“He tells me he’s got good news: one of the Rampart officers that was on our radar screen was just busted trying to buy 10 kilos of cocaine from an undercover DEA agent down in San Diego,” said Carson.

 

That was LAPD Officer Ruben Palomares, and it meant Carson’s investigation into departmental corruption would now be able to continue. Palomares and a crew of friends, relatives, and other dirty cops “were wearing their police uniforms and they were finding out where drug deals would happen or where there would be a bunch of money and dope and they would go to these locations as police officers — even though they weren’t really doing their job — and steal this stuff. And there was nothing the crooks could do because you can’t go to the police and say, ‘Hey, uh, two LAPD officers just came in and stole 20 kilos of cocaine from me.”

 

“We found out Ruben was getting these locations from a childhood friend he grew up with named David Barajas,” said Carson. “Barajas had married into the Sinaloa cartel family and finding out from [his wife] Michelle where all these big dope deals were going down, where there would be like, half a million dollars or 50 or 100 kilos of cocaine. He would pass that information onto Ruben and then Ruben would put together his crew and they would go ahead and hit these places.”

 

On June 15 2001, the LAPD was placed under the supervision of a federal monitor. It was only the fourth time in history that an American police department had been put under Justice Department control, and LAPD was the biggest one of those by far.

 

Rogue cops working in partnership with one of the deadliest Mexican drug cartels in the world constituted a situation that arguably, could eclipse even the Rampart scandal in size and scope. Carson, now partnerless, was assigned to investigate the Palomares drug-and-robbery ring with detectives Roger Mora and Steve Sambar of the LAPD’s Professional Standards Bureau.

 

One day, Carson was in his office talking on the phone to Mora and Sambar, discussing a home invasion robbery in which “probably the biggest drug dealer in LA,” a Santana Blocc Compton Crip named Freddy “Baby G” Staves, was the victim.

 

Mike Elliott, another FBI agent in the office, overheard Carson’s conversation. Elliott had been monitoring Staves on a previous federal wiretap with his old gang/drug squad and intercepted G talking about three LAPD officers that ransacked his house, bound him in duct tape, and tortured him. There were two kids in the house when it happened.

 

“They stole a large amount of money and these drugs and in particular he talks about a gold-plated revolver that they stole,” said Carson. “I’m like, ‘Holy Shit, that’s one of the home invasion robberies that I’m looking into regarding this case.’ Pretty amazing Mike heard me and we figured it out.”

 

Carson tried to get Staves to talk, but he wouldn’t say a word. Eventually, he got his hands on a copy of the police report from the robbery and saw that one of the two children in the house was Staves’ niece, who accused one of the cops of groping her during the break-in.

 

“I went back and told Freddy, ‘Look, this is what one of these police officers did,” Carson explained. “‘If you want to help me put this guy away, you need to come clean.’ That’s all it took.”

 

Staves was in jail when Carson needed him to testify. Once he secured a commitment by Staves to testify at trial, Carson still needed to get Palomares to give up the others in his stickup crew. But like Staves, Palomares tried to ice Carson out.

 

“What finally got him to cooperate with me is when I finally convinced him that his common law wife, a female LAPD officer named Donna Davis who had kids with him, was banging another LAPD officer,” explained Carson. “And I told him, ‘Hey, look, Ruben, it’s cool if you don’t want to cooperate with me, but just understand you’re going to go to prison for the rest of your life and someone else is going to raise your kids, and is going to walk your daughter down the aisle, and in the meantime he’ll be sleeping with your wife every single night. Or you can cooperate with me. It’s your call.”

 

Palomares led Carson to Jesse Moya, a dirty LAPD cop still on the job. When Carson approached Moya to cooperate with him on his investigation, he says Moya told him to “fuck off.” Two weeks later, Moya’s lawyer called Carson and asked if he had enough evidence to convict him or was he simply bluffing to get him to cooperate. More than enough to put him away for many years, Carson replied.

 

“I said, ‘Look, I hate going after other cops. I’m a cop. I don’t get any enjoyment going after these guys, but it’s my job. I don’t have a choice.’ And I told him, flat out, ‘Your client is guilty and I can prove it. I don’t get any satisfaction out of that, but trust me—if he comes to the table first, I will do my best to get him a favorable deal.’ And then all the dominoes start falling into place.”

 

In April of 2002, Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, his widow, Faith Evans, Biggie’s two children and one of their legal guardians filed a $400 million dollar civil lawsuit against the LAPD, Chief Bernard Parks, and the City of Los Angeles, for wrongful death and federal civil rights violations.

 

“Defendant Parks intentionally, willfully and recklessly delayed and stopped the investigation as soon as it became apparent officers employed by the Los Angeles Police Department were involved in the murder,” the suit alleged. It also named Amir Muhammad as the one who carried out the murder.

 

Seven months later, former NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was brought in by Mayor Richard Riordan to replace Bernard Parks as chief of the LAPD. The following year, Bratton recruited an old friend of his, Michael Berkow, to join LAPD as the head of the department’s Professional Standards Bureau. Berkow, who began his career as a cop in Rochester, NY and had most recently served as chief of police in Irvine, California, was given a mandate to clean up all corruption and misconduct throughout the LAPD ranks.

 

Moya agreed to wear a wire for Carson, whose two LAPD colleagues, Mora and Sambar, worked under Berkow. It was widely known that Berkow was part of Bratton’s inner circle, and was well-versed in containing bad press and managing potentially damaging stories. According to Carson, Berkow wasn’t happy when he discovered Moya was going to help the FBI root out further corruption among LAPD’s ranks.

 

“When he found out that I got Jesse to cooperate, he brought in Jesse and told him, ‘You’re going to have nothing to do with this,’” said Carson, who got a call from Moya later that day telling him he wanted to call off their deal.

 

“He says, look, I’m going to lose my job,” said Carson. “And that’s when I told Jesse, ‘Lose your job?! I said, ‘Dude, you’re going to federal prison. Losing your job is the least of your concerns. I’m just trying to minimize the amount of time you’re going to do.’”

 

Moya changed his mind back again and told Berkow he was going to assist Carson and the feds, after all.

 

“Well, that pissed Berkow off to no end,” said Carson. “He wasn’t gonna have some FBI agent coming into the LAPD and telling him how to do things.”

 

Nineteen defendants were eventually charged with participating in the robberies. Moya, who was released from prison in 2010, did not respond to a request for comment.

 

***

 

As the Palomares case wound its way through the court system, Carson was at home one night absentmindedly flipping through the channels when he landed on a VH1 documentary about the still-unsolved Biggie Smalls murder. It didn’t relate to any of the corruption cases Carson had been pursuing—or so he thought.

 

“Honestly, I did not really know anything about Biggie Smalls,” said Carson. “But while I’m watching, I’m thinking to myself, ‘Hold on a second here. This is all interconnected. These are all the same guys.’”

 

Carson realized that the tactics used in the Biggie Smalls killing—a highly choreographed, paramilitary-style operation utilizing police radios and maneuvers that suggested an intimate familiarity with law enforcement—couldn’t have been the work of one person. Certain aspects mimicked parts of the jobs pulled off a few years earlier by David Mack, Rafael Perez, and Ruben Palomares. Carson also knew that Mack and Perez had close ties to Suge Knight and Death Row Records.

 

“I know what kind of investigator Phil is, and if Phil tells you he knows who did it, he knows who did it. I’d bet my house on it,” said L.J. Connolly, who had by then transitioned into a counterterrorism position within the bureau.

 

Carson wrote up a detailed synopsis of how everything fit together and brought it to his supervisors, who agreed that he was onto something and told him to open up a case. It was hard to imagine that LAPD officers had indeed been involved, and Carson took no pleasure in going after other cops, but this was his job.

 

Two years had passed since anyone inside LAPD Robbery-Homicide had done any work on Biggie’s killing. Carson said he was able to review the “murder book,” or the complete case files, and “that is when I realized that no further investigation had taken place–it was a cold case for them.”

 

Carson went to Berkow and said he’d like to work with Mora and Sambar again. Berkow agreed, and Carson said the arrangement was approved by Chief Bill Bratton. Carson was slightly wary of Berkow after the Moya situation, but Mora and Sambar were two of the LAPD’s best and Carson decided it was worth dealing with Berkow to have them back on the team.

 

The trio’s first order of business was to fly to New Orleans to meet with Perry Sanders, the lead attorney representing Voletta Wallace, Biggie’s mom, in a $400 million wrongful death suit against the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles.

 

Berkow signed off on Mora and Sambar’s travel plans, and the three investigators got permission to travel to New Orleans for a second meeting with Sanders. The FBI paid all of Mora and Sambar’s expenses, which the LAPD didn’t have the budget for.

 

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield was at this meeting; it was then that Puffy Combs’ bodyguard Big Gene identified Amir Muhammad, also known as Harry Billups, as the person who killed Biggie. It confirmed statements other witnesses who were there the night of the murder had previously given to police, naming Muhammad as the shooter.

 

Carson returned to LA, where he, Mora, and Sambar brought LAPD brass up to speed on the latest developments.

 

“As we started giving briefs to Berkow and some of the other higher-ups there, they’re going, ‘Holy shit, these guys are really making this case,’” said Carson.

Berkow, who now heads the US Coast Guard Investigative Service, flatly denied this version of events.

 

“I don’t recall any of that,” Berkow told The Daily Beast. I recall Phil’s presentations on the Palomares case, which were very, very well done and comprehensive, but I don’t recall anything about Christopher Wallace. I wasn’t even really aware that Phil was working the Biggie Smalls case. I think there’s a lot of conspiracy theorists out there around this, and I think what’s important is to separate fact from fiction.”

 

But Carson provided details of these meetings and he was told by at least two FBI supervisors that Berkow had called them on “numerous” occasions, asking them to shut the case down. Carson said he also attended meetings with LAPD brass during which they weighed the pros and cons of solving the case before them, including the reputational and financial risks involved. According to Carson, the cops weren’t shedding any tears for a “400-lb black-male-former-crack-dealer-rapper that’s dead.” And proving an LAPD connection to the killing wouldn’t do the department any favors.

 

Carson said Berkow knew that the LAPD couldn’t withstand another corruption scandal, especially one as wide-ranging and high-profile as this one was shaping up to be. But Carson also doesn’t think Berkow was necessarily acting alone.

 

Said Carson, “I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that somebody was basically telling Berkow, or Berkow’s just deciding on his own, ‘I gotta stop this thing.’ And that’s when he goes ahead and inexplicably suddenly takes Roger and Steve off the case completely.”

 

“We’re just too low on resources,” Carson said Berkow told him.

 

Berkow disputed any suggestion that he or anyone else inside the LAPD had ulterior motives in play.

 

“I’ve spent 40 years doing police work and I’ve never seen a cop worrying about the financial hit the city’s gonna take in such a way to damage their own integrity,” Berkow said. “The idea that somebody would compromise an investigation because the city, in some future civil suit, might lose money is completely ridiculous.”

 

A newly-hired FBI agent, Jerry Jaeger, started helping Carson run down leads. Carson and Jaeger flew to New York City to interview witnesses who were at the Petersen Automotive Museum on the night of Biggie’s murder: Puffy Combs, his bodyguard Big Gene, and rapper Lil’ Cease. Carson said, he interviewed Puffy.

 

“I told Sean Combs that I believed that Biggie wasn’t the intended target of the hit, it was actually him that was the target,” said Carson. “That got his attention.”

During this period, Carson had also been meeting with LAPD Detective Steve Katz, who was the keeper of the so-called “murder book,” or case files, in the Biggie killing. However, Carson was never allowed to view the files alone, and couldn’t make any copies. Over time, he noticed that key evidentiary photographs were now gone and missing from Katz’s file.

 

***

Michael Robinson had been a confidential informant for the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department since 1994. A one-time Compton Lantana Blocc Crip and Black Guerrilla Family associate, Robinson was extremely well-connected on the streets of LA. Through his brother, an alleged contract killer with 18 to 20 bodies to his name, Carson said Robinson had previously become acquainted with Amir Muhammad, aka Harry Billups, who had been fingered by witnesses as the alleged triggerman in the Biggie murder.

 

Muhammad, who had gone to the University of Oregon with now-disgraced cop-turned-bank robber David Mack and was the godfather to Mack’s two children, insisted that he was nothing more than a simple mortgage broker and swore he had nothing to do with any of this. But Carson thought Muhammad knew more than he let on. Muhammad had been the first person to visit Mack in jail after he was arrested, and gave guards a phony address, Social Security number, and phone number when he signed himself in.

 

Robinson, whose street name was “Psycho Mike,” wasn’t actually psychotic. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had severe learning disabilities, said Richard Valdemar, Mike’s former handler with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. But Valdemar said in a telephone interview that Mike’s illness was well controlled with medication, and was highly reliable.

 

According to FBI documents, “several” confidential informants pointed to Mack and Muhammad as having been directly involved in the Biggie murder. Psycho Mike told Carson that at a party in early 1998, Muhammad told him that he was the one who shot Biggie Smalls.

 

Carson convinced Psycho Mike to wear a wire and try to elicit another confession from Muhammad. No one from LAPD was on the team at this point, and Carson said Berkow declined an offer to have someone join them for this operation.

 

The plan was to stage a meet with Muhammad in Chula Vista, a few miles south of San Diego, where he lived. In December 2003, just before Carson was about to head down with Psycho Mike, Berkow resurfaced and demanded the LAPD be part of the operation. But Psycho Mike didn’t trust the LAPD, saying they were complicit in Biggie’s murder, and said he wouldn’t cooperate if they were involved. Carson said this made Berkow extremely upset. He insisted that he be briefed on everything that happened, and forced the FBI to put transmitters in Psycho Mike’s pockets so they could listen into the meet in real-time. Carson said he briefed Berkow along with Lt. Al Michelina of the Robbery-Homicide Division.

 

“These transmitters that we used absolutely sucked and they weren’t gonna be able to hear anything anyway, which is exactly how we wanted it,” Carson said.

 

With that squared away, Carson and Psycho Mike caravanned down to San Diego with fellow FBI Special Agent Tim Flaherty. Psycho Mike drove a white Mercedes the FBI used for undercover jobs. Carson and his partner were in another unmarked vehicle that couldn’t be mistaken for a cop car. They checked into a hotel and Carson tailed Muhammad for a few days, trying to establish his daily patterns. He wanted to engineer what the FBI calls a “bump,” in which Psycho Mike would run into Muhammad in a “chance” encounter at the gym, the mall, or some such.

 

But they couldn’t get a solid bead on Muhammad’s regular hangouts, so Carson formulated an alternate plan—Psycho Mike would simply show up at Muhammad’s home and try to engage him in conversation about what happened the night of the Biggie murder. Psycho Mike drove to Muhammad’s place off Telegraph Canyon Road in the white Mercedes; Carson and Flaherty followed at a safe distance and parked a block away. It was approximately 8:30 pm.

 

When Muhammad answered the door, he appeared to recognize Psycho Mike, who brought up Biggie’s killing and got Muhammad talking. Although Muhammad didn’t reveal anything incriminating during the conversation, it was obvious that he and Psycho Mike weren’t strangers to one another. After a few minutes, the conversation ended and Psycho Mike drove away.

 

A few hours later, after discussing the situation with his wife, Muhammad called the police, saying he thought the visit from Psycho Mike was “odd.” Chula Vista officer Fred Rowbotham showed up and took a report.

 

The next morning, Psycho Mike showed up at Muhammad’s house again and rang the doorbell. As before, Carson parked his car away from the immediate area. This time, Muhammad didn’t answer the door and called 911. Rowbotham showed up about 10 minutes later, after Psycho Mike had already left once and come back to try again. Rowbotham took Psycho Mike aside and out of Muhammad’s earshot for questioning.

 

Psycho Mike quietly explained that he was involved with an FBI undercover operation, and gave Carson’s cell number to a skeptical Rowbotham. Carson confirmed everything was legit, and asked Rowbotham to release Psycho Mike. He also asked Rowbotham to go back to the house and get a positive ID on Muhammad, but someone else answered the front door this time. However, Rowbotham spotted Muhammad in the reflection of a mirror inside, hiding behind a partially-opened door.

 

“Someone shows up at your door wanting to talk to you about being involved with a murder, and all of a sudden a police officer shows up and you’re not involved in anything like that, of course you’re gonna talk to them, like, ‘Yeah, what the hell is going on?’” said Carson.

 

Rowbotham told the person in Muhammad’s house that he was going to escort Psycho Mike out of the area. A short time later, Psycho Mike went back and stuck a business card in Muhammad’s door with a 310 phone number written on the back.

 

About 90 minutes later, Muhammad went to the San Diego District Attorney’s office and told an investigator named P.J. Harn that Rowbotham hadn’t resolved the situation with Psycho Mike to his satisfaction and wanted to file a complaint against Rowbotham. Muhammad also gave Harn the plate number of the white Mercedes Psycho Mike had been driving, adamant that he had no idea who Psycho Mike was.

 

The white Mercedes undercover car was registered under a fictitious name, which Harn said Muhammad hadn’t recognized. Carson said to tell Muhammad that the car had recently been sold and the paperwork was still in transfer, which was why Psycho Mike’s name wasn’t yet on the title. When Harn explained this to Muhammad, he became angry, saying he knew Harn was lying to him because he had already gotten the plate run by someone he knew at LAPD.

 

The DA’s office immediately contacted Rowbotham, who in turn called Carson. Carson gave him some additional background on Muhammad, including the fact that he used to go by the name “Harry Billups.” But when Harn asked Muhammad a short time later if he ever used that name anymore, Carson was told Muhammad “turned pale, his jaw dropped, and Harn knew something was up.” Suddenly, Muhammad had nothing further to say other than that he thought “someone at LAPD is a snitch,” and lost all interest in filing his complaint against Rowbotham.

 

“Make of that what you will,” said Carson, who still can’t figure out why Muhammad got so unnerved by the question. “Changing your name is a legal thing to do, it has nothing to do with filing a complaint against somebody. It’s no reason to have a complete change of heart on everything.”

 

An article later appeared in the Los Angeles Times, exposing the operation and “completely diming out Michael Robinson as the source who’s wearing a wire,” Carson said. It had been written by reporter Chuck Philips, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who reportedly had a longtime relationship with Suge Knight and Death Row.

 

“Depositions suggest that agents have reviewed Muhammad’s mortgage payments and phone records and conducted wiretaps, trying to link him to Mack,” the March 2004 article said. “The FBI recently conducted surveillance of Muhammad in San Diego and, sources said, wired an informant in an attempt to elicit incriminating statements from him. The effort yielded nothing, according to court documents and people familiar with the case.”

 

“I mean one and one is two,” Muhammad said in a deposition that June. “And when someone is at your door that you don’t recognize or know, and you later read that that had taken place you summarize [sic] that that’s what that was. (Muhammad did not respond to a request for comment.)

 

In a memo written by Carson at the time, Valdemar, Psycho Mike’s handler, said it was “unbelievable how bad Phillips and the LA Times is trying to disprove Robinson and the theory that Amir committed the murder.”

 

Carson was extremely concerned about the leak, but more immediately, he feared the clues in the Times article would lead to Psycho Mike being widely outed as a snitch. For his part, Muhammad said he never attended a party with Psycho Mike nor did he ever make such a confession. Although Psycho Mike was given round-the-clock police protection, things were relatively quiet until June 2005, six months after the FBI closed its investigation, when another piece in the Times by Phillips identified Psycho Mike by name.

 

The subsequent attempts on Mike’s life began almost immediately. He was shot at by a gunman with an AK-47 (Psycho Mike’s granddaughter was hit instead), cut across the face with a razor, and his front teeth were knocked out. According to Richard Valdemar, an assailant even brought up the Times article during one attack. Valdemar said he stashed Mike in a number of safehouses around LA; mostly abandoned homes taken over by HUD that were in various states of disrepair.

 

“I was having to brief Berkow on what was going on throughout the case,” said Carson. “That’s when I went to my bosses—and this is after he had already pulled [detectives] Roger [Mora] and Steve [Sambar]—and I said, ‘Why am I telling this guy anything?’ Because at that point we thought maybe he was passing information on to Chuck Phillips.”

Carson said he obviously wouldn’t have blown his own informant’s cover, and that Berkow was the only one outside of the FBI who knew the details of what Carson was doing.

“Chuck Phillips used to call and ask questions like all the other reporters,” Berkow maintained, insisting he had “no idea” how Phillips might have found out about Muhammad and Psycho Mike. “It’s a little bit crazy. The idea that I would leak an informant is offensive. I certainly don’t know where this idea came from that I was friends with Chuck Phillips.”

Phillips was unable to be reached for comment, and even his close associates didn’t seem to know where to find him. A former colleague of his at the Times said, “Sorry, but neither I nor other friends of Chuck’s actually have any working contacts for him right now.”

***

During this time, Voletta Wallace’s civil suit proceeded apace. Carson had maintained contact with Perry Sanders, Wallace’s civil attorney, in an effort to glean additional information about the case he might be able to use. Sanders’ office was able to interview potential witnesses, either friends or co-workers of Biggie’s, that wouldn’t speak to the FBI.

 

FBI agents are allowed, even encouraged, to interact with civil attorneys if they might have information pertinent to the investigation. But it was, as always, a one-way street, according to Carson—agents don’t share details of their side of the case. The reason civil lawyers would cooperate is simple: if the FBI makes its criminal case, the civil suit will theoretically be that much easier to win.

 

That Carson met with Sanders was approved by the chain of command and fully documented, plus Mora and Sambar had accompanied Carson each time. A 2003 FBI memo explained that Sanders agreed to make a copy of his entire case file for the bureau. LAPD Chief Bill Bratton also had been briefed on the arrangement, it said.

 

Sanders had a number of former Los Angeles cops and sheriff’s deputies working for him as investigators, all of whom were on the list of witnesses expected to testify for Wallace’s side in the civil trial. Unbeknownst to Carson, Sanders had added his name to the witness list, as well.

 

As is standard procedure, the witness list was submitted to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office; upon seeing Carson’s name on it, they called an emergency meeting with Carson and his bosses. On the morning of September 15, 2004, Luis Li, chief of the city attorney’s criminal branch, showed up at the FBI Los Angeles Field Office. Li told Carson and the gathered FBI brass that if he was subpoenaed to testify as witness, the FBI needed to squash it.

 

“In the meeting, Luis Li said that if I were to testify in the civil suit that the LAPD stands a 50-50 chance of losing a $400 million dollar lawsuit and that the LAPD cannot afford that,” said Carson. “And I told everybody, ‘Hey, look, I never knew I was going to be on any witness list. I don’t want anything to do with this.’”

 

The city attorney was in fact actively trying to make the case go away, said Carson. Not only were the financial ramifications too much for the city and the LAPD to bear, another corruption scandal would almost certainly exclude the LAPD from participating in any joint task forces with the FBI and other federal agencies, which supplemented LAPD’s operating budget and strengthened its investigations immensely.

 

In January 2005, federal prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence for indictments against David Mack, Amir Muhammad, and LAPD for allegedly having orchestrated the Biggie murder, and the FBI quietly shut down its case.

 

At the beginning of March, Chuck Phillips called Carson at his desk. He said he knew the FBI investigation had ended a couple of months earlier, and asked Carson for comment. Carson said he couldn’t talk about it and referred Phillips to FBI press officer Cathy Viray.

 

Phillips called Viray and informed her that he had a new article in the works which painted Carson as a rogue and irresponsible agent and that his sources said the FBI abandoned its case because of improper contacts between Carson and Voletta Wallace’s legal team.

 

Feeling backed into a corner because FBI regulations didn’t allow Carson to respond to the accusations, Carson pleaded with FBI Assistant Director in Charge Rich Garcia, the big boss in LA, to set the record straight.

 

On the afternoon of March 9, 2005, Garcia, Carson, Viray, FBI attorney Steve Kramer, and an assortment of top FBI officials had a 90-minute conference call with Phillips during which Carson’s FBI bosses described him as a model agent and explained in no uncertain terms that Carson’s perfectly proper interactions with Perry Sanders et al had nothing to do with the investigation being shut down.

 

Two days later, Phillips’ article was published on page A1 of the LA Times. His version of the conference call bore little resemblance to the one Carson remembered being part of.

 

“FBI officials conducted a review of the investigation—and shut it down in January—after learning that Agent Philip J. Carson had discussions with lawyers for Wallace’s mother, Voletta Wallace, and had been subpoenaed to testify in her wrongful-death lawsuit against the city,” the story said. Phillips further claimed that sources told him “FBI officials were concerned that Carson might have been influenced by the Wallace lawyers and that his contacts with them could embarrass the bureau.”

 

“Finally my bosses are kind of seeing the picture here,” said Carson.

 

Assistant Director Garcia wrote a letter to the publisher of the LA Times on official FBI letterhead, demanding a retraction and enumerating the various falsehoods in Phillips’ article, including the fact that Carson’s contacts with Sanders were irrelevant as far as the bureau was concerned. The Times said it stood by its story and said he was free to write a letter to the editor for possible publication. Carson asked about suing, but Department of Justice lawyers said such a case would be nearly impossible to win.

 

At the end of his rope, Carson decided to meet with Phillips—with ADiC Garcia’s permission—so Phillips could “put a face with the name and see that he’s ruining an agent’s career.” They met at a downtown coffee shop near the Times building early the next morning. After they finished eating, Phillips said he had something he needed to show Carson and brought him upstairs. LOOK AT THIS FOR ACCURACY 15:50 on Phils Notes

 

“He takes me into his office and he plays me three or four cassette tape recordings of conversations between himself and Mike Berkow,” said Carson. “Every one of them was basically, ‘What’s your next article? How are you portraying Carson?’”

 

Carson said he heard Berkow tell Phillips in one of the recordings that he needed to “make sure” Carson was personally discredited so he wouldn’t be believable on the stand if called to testify in Voletta Wallace’s civil case.

 

“I was stunned,” said Carson. “I was in shock when I got done listening to those.”

 

But there was more. Philips then showed Carson photographs he had from the night of the Biggie homicide at the Petersen Automotive Museum—the same photos that Carson had previously noticed were missing from the murder book in Steve Katz’s office at LAPD Robbery-Homicide.

 

Seething, Carson got up and left without another word.

 

The Wallace family’s civil case finally came to trial on June 21, 2005. Three days into the proceedings, Perry Sanders announced that he had received an anonymous tip that LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detective Steven Katz was hiding crucial, previously undisclosed evidence in his desk drawer.

 

Chief Michael Berkow said this happened on a Friday, and he immediately put a team together to search the Robbery-Homicide offices all weekend to make sure there wasn’t any other evidence that hadn’t been properly submitted to the court. He insisted this was the extent of his participation with anything related to the Biggie Smalls case.

 

“I gave immunity [to cops] from minor procedural violations; we told people, ‘Hey, we just gotta get all this stuff together,’” Berkow said. “The result of that was a follow-up operation called Operation Transparency that Professional Standards did to collect material from throughout LAPD and provide it to Robbery-Homicide. That was my involvement.”

 

Two weeks later, US District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper declared a mistrial. In a deposition, Katz said he hadn’t turned over the evidence to Wallace’s lawyers because he forgot he had it. But Cooper didn’t buy it, saying Katz’s claim “defied credulity.” In a news conference, LAPD Chief Bill Bratton said Katz’s “oversight” would be investigated by the department.

Mike Berkow left the LAPD under a cloud in 2006 after admitting to a three-year affair with a female sergeant under his command. He then became chief of the Savannah, Georgia PD, leaving in 2009 to join Bill Bratton at Altegrity Security Consulting, a private firm where Bratton had just become CEO.

Chuck Phillips was fired by the LA Times in 2008 after it was discovered that he had fabricated FBI documents to use as evidence for one of his articles. After maintaining a blog for a period of time, it went dark in 2012.

After his investigation came to an end, the FBI sent Phil Carson to Iraq, where he and his old partner L.J. Connolly were tasked with rooting out corruption within the US-led Iraq Provisional Authority. In 2009, Carson received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the Justice Department’s highest honor.

David Mack now works at a green energy company in Southern California. The $722,000 from the 1997 bank robbery has never been found; Mack never gave up his two accomplices. Mack’s LinkedIn profile does not include his nine years of LAPD service. Rafael Perez now works as a chauffeur; his clients have included Al Gore and Harvey Weinstein. Ruben Palomares found god in prison and is now a minister.

 

“Unfortunately, I am unable to provide you with any assistance in your endeavor,” Palomares said in an email. “I was unaware that the department stopped the FBI probe.”

 

Michael “Psycho Mike” Robinson died of a heart attack in 2006. He was 49 years-old. According to Richard Valdemar, the FBI covered Robinson’s funeral expenses.

 

“Mike was a hero, in my opinion,” said Valdemar. “He was a very brave guy.”

 

When Jesse Moya was released from prison, he called Carson to ask if they could meet for lunch. Carson respectfully declined, saying that while he thought Moya was “a good dude who just got caught up with the wrong people,” the optics of an active FBI agent hanging out with a convicted former cop would simply be too risky. Moya now runs a martial arts clothing company in California.

 

Phil Carson now works in the executive security and investigations field. He lives on the West Coast.

 

“To this day, nobody has shown me one piece of evidence that disproves my theory that David Mack and Amir Muhammad were behind this, and nobody has shown me one shred of evidence that points a finger at anybody else, zero,” said Carson. “Which I think speaks volumes.”

 

In 2007, the Wallace family filed another lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, this time for $500 million. It was set aside on procedural grounds; the Wallaces refiled in 2008. In 2010, Judge TK dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, meaning it can be filed again. With the new evidence now being brought to light by Phil Carson, maybe it will be.

 

QUOTE FROM VOLETTA WALLACE TK

 

Big Gene, who was devastated by Biggie’s death and never came to grips with the fact that no one was ever held accountable for it: “Justice delayed is not justice denied,” adding, “I have to say to myself, ‘God looks out for fools and babies.’ And I guess he’s looking out for this fool.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 30, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: MAYOR de Blasio served subpoena in James Grant NYPD Corrupt...

EXCLUSIVE: MAYOR BILL de BLASIO to be Subpoenaed in NYPD Corruption Case

By: Don Sikorski

Lawyers for embattled NYPD Officer, James “Jimmy” Grant, served Mayor Bill de Blasio today with a subpoena to testify in Grant’s trial starting November 5th, 2018 in the Southern District of New York.

James Grant and co-defendant, Jeremy Reichberg, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit Honest Services wire fraud. Grant was a decorated NYPD officer for twenty years who reached the rank of Deputy Inspector. Jeremy Reichberg is a former Borough Park, Brooklyn policy liaison who worked closely with real estate investor and star government informant, Jona Rechnitz.

Rechnitz, a high-flying, real estate developer was a major donor to Mayor de Blasio, and boasted about paying his way through City Hall and the NYPD. Rechnitz has already testified against New York City Jail Union Leader, Norman Seabrook, who was convicted in August for conspiracy and bribery-related fraud. Rechnitz was the middleman between Seabrook and now defunct, hedge fund Platinum partners. Seabrook received a sixty-thousand dollar pay off to steer twenty-million in pension money.

Defense Attorney for James Grant, John Meringolo exclusively told the “Go to Ground News“ I’m sure that Mayor de Blasio is looking forward to testifying to set the record straight that he did not conspire with Jona Rechnitz.”

Rechnitz was also a conduit for business transactions between his companies and Phillip Banks, the former NYPD Chief of Department and Deputy Chief, Michael Harrington. The FBI investigated 300k in cash deposits into Banks’ account and that of his wife, Vonda Smith. The FBI Special Agent in charge of the investigation, Joseph Downs, described these transactions of having all the hallmarks of structuring and money laundering.

On the eve of Banks being promoted to the number two slot in all of the NYPD, he suddenly retired, rejecting the prestigious promotion. Sources within the NYPD believe that Banks was being groomed to be the next Commissioner after James O’Neill stepped down. Even with the FBI investigation into money laundering that included the IRS, Banks was not charged by the U. S. Attorney in this case.

The Grant and Reichberg trial is a grand finale into a complex investigation that began in 2011 and ensnared many high-ranking NYPD Officials. Many simply plead out, or others, like Banks,  were not charged by the United States Attorney.

The case against Grant and Reichberg revolves around an arcane, federal statute called Honest Services.  This charge has been applied in cases of public corruption, as well as cases in which a private individual breached a fiduciary duty to another. James Grant will be the only NYPD officer to ever stand trial for Honest Services Fraud. A former NYPD official and  source described Honest Services and this case as follows, “ They are charging honest services and wire fraud for police escorts and parades, it doesn’t add up, it’s very perplexing.”

The government case hinges on what they term are official acts under the statute. These acts include providing police escorts, providing official NYPD assistance with private disputes and investigations, help getting out of tickets or other infractions, and access to parades and other cultural events.

In a federal court filing the week of October 22, 2018, United States Attorneys, Martin S Bell, Jessica Lonegran and Kimberly J Ravener, asked the honorable Judge Gregory H. Woods to prevent lawyers for Jimmy Grant and Jermey Reichberg from questioning Jona Rechnitz about testimony he gave about corrupt police officers during the Norman Seabrook trial. The following exchange was cited in the documents:

Mr. Rechnitz, I don’t think you were asked this yesterday, so I will ask: What did you understand the term “corrupted” to mean when Mr. Shechtman asked you if you thought you corrupted police officers?

A: Like a quid pro quo, a bribe, saying, for example, I will give you a dollar if you give me a bottle of water. That’s what I understand corruption to mean.

Q: When Mr. Shechtman asked if you corrupted the police officers, why did you say no?

A: Because there was never an explicit verbal agreement to that example. I never said I will give you this if you give me that. I gave them gifts, I expected favors in return. I never expected to hear a no from them and favors were done, but it was never an explicit verbal agreement.

The problem with the prosecution’s letter to the judge is that the United States Attorney is relying on Jona Rechnitz to lay out for the jury, his relationship with James Grant and Jeremy Reichberg, and the acts of bribery they say took place.

Attorney John Meringolo sees this as a fundamental flaw of the case, “The testimony by Jona Rechnitz under oath, in the Seabrook Trial, contradicts the prosecution’s theory that there was a quid pro quo between Rechnitz and any of the NYPD officers he dealt with.

In another contrasting narrative of the government’s case provided by a source to Go to Ground News, Rechnitz went into a proffer (“A preliminary offering, specifically with regard to testimony or evidence, a preview of what will be said or shown. Also known as an offer of proof.’) with the FBI in 2015, for thirteen months of proffers. Rechnitz lied under oath about his income, other criminal conduct, and NYPD officers he had bribed. It wasn’t until a day after Passover in 2016 that Rechnitz came clean to the FBI about his past untruths, and he was given a cooperation agreement within thirty-days.

The Grant and Reichberg trial is an oddity in the Southern District. What was once a wide-ranging corruption probe inside the NYPD that garnered huge headlines is now a battle against a lone, NYPD officer, and an influence-peddling liaison who had ties to Mayor de Blasio. Rechnitz has admitted in open court and privately that his relationship with NYPD Chief of Department, Phillip Banks, was valuable. His influence peddling had landed him connections inside One Police Plaza.

It is obvious that the United States Attorney overstepped in the case. All of the unindicted co-conspirators within the NYPD that were named in the case sued in arbitration and won their pensions and overtime due.

The relationship between Rechnitz and Mayor de Blasio has been covered extensively throughout the investigation. Mayor de Blasio on three separate occasions has called Rechnitz a liar, a felon, and a horrible human being. It begs the question as to why the government is putting millions of dollars and resources behind a trial that at its essence has components that would seem part of a community, policing initiative. The honest services charge is standard when dealing with corrupt politicians, and circumstances where there was a clearly defined financial interest for both parties.

Insiders within the Southern District don’t understand how the government has not given Jimmy Grant or Reichberg plea deals to tie this case into a neat bow and be done with it. The former NYPD police source went as far to say,

“ You have 60 people within the NYPD that have been involved in this investigation, in a sense that they have been visited and questioned by the FBI. Most which are executive rank of captain all the way through three to four star chiefs and multiple command officials. Instead of the NYPD defending how they build relationships, they are leaving Jimmy Grant out to hang. They were afraid to stand up to the FBI.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 29, 2017

James Rosemond Trial Part 4

THE JAMES ROSEMOND TRIAL PART 4

EDITORS NOTE*** James Rosemond was found guilty on all accounts on November 28, 2017. A jury deliberated for two hours. The United States Attorney did a good job of convincing the jury, that Rosemond was the main player in the conspiracy to murder Lowell Fletcher.

 VERSION OF THE TRUTH

 The James Rosemond Trial continues as the government brought its two strongest witnesses to date: Jason Williams and Brian McLeod.  Both of these witnesses were present when Lowell Fletcher was shot and killed. Williams testified that he worked on the instructions with Rosemond to select a location for the murder and also planned the various steps with Brian McLeod. For many years, Jason Williams worked for Jimmy in legitimate enterpries. He was also charged in the Drug Kingpin case because he was invloved in the Rosemond Organization.

Jason’s sentence was 24 years. For the last six years, the government has been hounding him to testify; however, he decided not to take the stand. It was not until a few months prior to the trial that Williams was transported to the federal jail in Queens. He began the process of preparing to testify against Jimmy. This was a big win for the government. In the prior two murder trials that Jimmy faced, there was not any testimony from Jason Williams, which left a gaping hole in the government’s case.

In his testimony, Williams tells the story of being one of the main architects of the suspected murder that required him to drive, select a location, and also bring the murder weapon that Derek Grant, the shooter, would ultimately use. The government had him methodically walk through the planning and the selection of the murder scene in the Bronx. He also also explained to the jury the use of a silencer and a twenty-two-caliber gun. After Derek Grant executed Lowell Fletcher, Williams then told the jury that he took the murder weapon on Jimmy’s instructions and tossed it into the East River. His tale is beginning to sound like a scene out of a New York City crime drama.

As I listened to the testimony, a few questions came up, which have haunted this trial from the start. Williams knew he was looking at twenty-four years. If he tesified and did a good job, he would be home for the holidays. What took him so long to make his mind up? He had worked for Jimmy for ten years, and believed in the code of the streets. He believed that he was strong enough to withstand the twenty-four years he would have to serve.

Did the United States Attorney wear him down by asking him to come in and come clean? All of these options are pretty simple: Twenty-four years of life in a federal prison or six years served, and he could be back on the street. Only a certain kind of man with principles would do that time. A man with the strongest bonds of loyalty. In today’s world, most would have chosen freedom.

As Touger began his cross examination, he made it clear that everyone else involved in Jimmy’s drug organization or the murder, such as Brian McLeod, were on the streets and not in jail.  Derek Grant, the actual shooter, remains behind bars with a life sentence and refuses to testify. Touger pointed out and Williams answered that Jason did not have any conversations with Jimmy about the planning of the killing. When Jimmy met with Brian McLeod, Jason was either in the car, or too far away to hear the conversation.

What Touger pointed out was the night that Lowell Fletcher was killed, Rodney Johnson was present with another unnamed individual. This information means that, Jason, McLeod, Rodney Johnson, Derek Grant, and one other person were present. The government wants you to believei that Jimmy had Rodney Johnson there as a back-up hit team. Jason was not aware that Rodney Johnson was present until after the murder. All of this testimony leaves the jury in confusion.

Here is my understanding at this point. There were five people present in the Bronx the night that Fletcher was murdered. There were at least five people who knew they were there to do something or watch something happen to Fletcher. If this was an orchestrated hit or shooting that Jimmy planned, why would he have invited these five people, who would ultimately know information about a murder or shooting? This entire scenario is stupid and sloppy by the rules of the criminal underworld. Wiliams testifies that Jimmy told him to bring the twenty-two caliber gun the night of the murder, but he did not name the person who was suppose to get the gun.

David Touger continues to ask the same questions about this theory. Derek Grant and possibly Rodney Johnson were suppose to just shoot Lowell Fletcher—not kill him. In order for the jury to have a fundamental understanding, they would have to suspend their own moral guide as they think back to all of the prior, violent incidents, such as instances were houses and cars were shot. But, interesting enough, no one was ever hurt or killed. Touger continues to insinuate that maybe Lowell Fletcher was not to be killed that night, but unfortunately, he was. More importantly, what does this mean for the five people who were present and Jimmy?

The other looming piece of information and a tidbit that is difficult to report on is the point of view of Khalil Abdullah and Jason Williams. In the early stages of the drug and the murder cases, Jimmy went into “proffer sessions” nine times. Now to understand what is said or not said in a proffer, one has to understand the following facts. Proffer sessions where someone gets full immunity of prosecution are often called “Queen for a Day.” You can tell the government prior crimes, in hopes of securing a cooperation agreement. In these proffers, if you lie or the government finds out you lied, then they can use information from the proffers in open court. But, before you come to any assumptions, you have to also know the key thing about “proffer sessions.” These sessions are not videotaped or recorded; nor are they recorded by a stenographer like testimony inside a courtroom. The law enforcement agents, who have investigated the case, are present with the United States Attorney. The agent or agents take hand written notes that are then typed into a document. These notes, and these proffer documents are rarely released to the public. They are held confidential, and are rarely leaked because the consequences are severe.

In the release of these series of articles, Khalil Abdullah reached out via email, with his point of view on the narrative and the investigations. It is his contention that he testified because it was basically a race between Jimmy and Khalil to proffer with the government and get a good deal. Abdullah stated that Jimmy was going to put the murder on him. In a sidebar  in court, it was also speculated that Jason Williams believed  that Jimmy was going to testify or proffer on him, and thus he was going forward to do the same. In analyzing these proffers, I can’t speculate what happened because I don’t have any government records that can verify what was said.

I believe  that there is another scenario to consider. It is obvious for ten years that Todd Kaminsky, a former United States Attorney, has had Jimmy in his cross-hairs. His obsession led to the early investigations. Additionally, the current United States Attorney is also relentlessly going after Jimmy because they consider him a trophy. The government’s narrative is that Jimmy is the HEAD OF THE SNAKE, THE KINGPIN, and the CEO of the James Rosemond Organization.. They believe he is no different than John Gotti, the head of the Gambino Crime Family. So in building a federal drug case or a federal murder conspiracy case, the only target that would satisfy the government operatives would be Jimmy in jail for life. The surrounding characters were mere pawns to be used at will, to make sure that story and narrative played out.

It is possible that Jimmy proffered? Who exactly would he be proffering against? There didn’t seem to be a large-scale drug connection or Mexican cartel figure that Jimmy could roll on. Another angle, would be that because Jimmy knew everyone was going to testify against him . . .  why not go into the session. The proffer was a fishing expedition that at some point went wrong. Jimmy’s attorney at that time, probably made a mistake in entertaining a proffer, but it is the default mechanism of many defense attorneys because the majority of them have limited experience winning federal trials. Khalil communicated to me that I needed to report that Jimmy proffered. Here is my observation on the matter. The jury only cares about one truth: Did Jimmy order this hit crew to kill Lowell Fletcher, or did he instruct them to bring Lowell Fletcher to him? The testimony of Brian Mcleod is layered and very complex. McLeod testified that Jimmy paid him a kilo of cocaine that came from Rodney Johnson for the murder of Lowell Fletcher. He testified that he set up the logistics of the kill. He also testified that in years prior, Jimmy called him when he knew that a drug stash house was going to get raided. McLeod cleared the stash house out on Jimmy’s instructions, but was arrested with forty kilos of cocaine and close to $450,000 in cash. In that case, McLeod was sentenced to six to twelve years. He alluded to this crime when he was finally released from jail that Jimmy owed him a few favors for taking that hit. Once he was released from jail, he reached out to Jimmy and communicated to him that he had a line on Lowell Fletcher, who had served time in the same prison. McLeod was given five thousand dollars by Jimmy upon his release. He visited  Jimmy’s studio, where they agreed to meet in Central Park. This was the first of a few meetings that McLeod talks about that happened in person and the cell phone records verify it. McLeod says that Jimmy communicated to him that every law enforcement agency, including DEA and possibly the NYPD, were after him in regards to the drug case.

Jimmy, at this time, was staying away from his office as it was under surveillance. It was during this conversation that he alleged Rosemond told him that he was unable to sleep since Fletcher and Tony Yayo assaulted his son,. He also said that he had been at war with them, shooting up cars, houses, and office buildings. He told McLeod that he has ten thousand dollars for anyone in jail that would cut Lowell Fletcher’s face. He did not want him dead. The slice on his face would be his retaliation for his son. Jimmy then walked to a bank and gave McLeod another five grand.  McLeod stated that Jimmy was going to pay him fifty-grand for taking the hit on the stash house and not testifying against him. Then, McLeod describes a second meeting inside Whole Foods.

“I HAVE THIRTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR ANYBODY WHO BRINGS HIM TO ME, CAUSE I GONNA HIT HIM SO HARD AND SO FAST HE’S NOT GOING TO SEE IT COMING.”

Brian McLeod testified that Jimmy said these words to him at a meeting at Whole Foods. Are these the words that the jury or the case should hinge on? What did Jimmy mean? Did he want to hit Fletcher or beat him up? Or does hit mean kill? What is Jimmy’s state of mind? Only Jimmy knows what these words actually mean. This exhchange of words is what created the story in motion.

If you think that Jimmy meant to just beat up Lowell Fletcher and not kill him, then those sequences of words above would find Jimmy not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. If you think HIT, means to kill, then as a jury member you have to make that decision to convict.  Another question to ask is why would Jimmy be so  brazen, to embark on a concentrated effort to kill someone with the DEA, NYPD, and federal prosecutors zoning in on parts of his narcotics operation?

In a sidebar in court, Sam Enzer and David Touger spent time arguing what the interpreation of this statement meant for McLeod and Jimmy. The government maintains that McLeod thought Jimmy wanted him to bring Fletcher to him, so he could kill him. This argument cuts to the heart of this case, and could on appeal be analyzed at length. McLeod testifies that he spoke to Rosemond in code in a public place and suggested that Derek Grant, the soon-to-be shooter, was home. Jimmy had to interprete that comment. Did it mean the Grant would be the hired killer, or that Grant would bring Fletcher to Jimmy? In the exchange at sidebar, the judge and David Touger had an interesting dialogue. Touger stated that McLeod could not testify to what he meant the word “hit” meant when Jimmy said it. Judge Kaplan replied with an analogy of what the word “hit” meant inside the Gotti family when it was ordered. Now the word “hit” is coded language inside the Mafia for murder. But, you could argue that inside the Rosemond’s drug organization, “hit” could mean roughing someone up: Jimmy wasn’t in the Italian Mafia. Touger continued to cite case law in regards to drug codes and dialogue. Jimmy and McLeod were supposively “talking in code,” but it seemed to the lay person that McLeod was talking in code: however, Jimmy was pretty clear. What is not clear is what did Jimmy mean when he said HIT.

It is after this meeting that McLeod brings Derek Grant on board as the shooter with an agreement that they would get money for the job. The conversation that McLeod testifies to is that Grant and himself agreed that the fee would be doubled without talking to Jimmy; however, there is no record that Jimmy agreed to the plan. The big legal question here is did Grant and McLeod create their own scheme? Is it possible that two hustlers saw a way to hold sixty-grand over Jimmy’s head? This poses a theory that no one has really discussed or investigated. As the testimony progressed, McLeod explained to the jury the actual murder, and his involvement of luring Lowell Fletcher to the actual spot, where Derek Grant could execute him. Additionally, he described the events that transpired after the murder: Rodney Johnson gave him a kilo of cocaine that allegedly came from Jimmy. He also shared the conversations between Derek Grant and himself on how much money they actually deserved versus what they agreed to.The government called their final witness, John Heintz, from the United States Marshall Service, Technical Operations Group, and Electronic Surveillance Unit. He had analyzed all the cell phone records of the members of the so-called conspiracy. The key point to take away from his testimony was at that time, they could not trap text messages because by the time the investigation started the telephone carriers had erased the messages from their storage. They only kept text messages for a period of time, not forever. So, he could pinpoint where a cell phone was at a particular time and date due to the cell phone tower. He could not verify what was said on the phone, or even at times whether a conversation was going on. His information did verify that Jimmy’s cell phone and the cell phone of Brian McLeod were in the vicinity of Whole Foods on more than one occasion. One would suspect if the text messages were available, we all would have a more complete picture of this very confusing story. The government will begin closing arguments on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, and it is speculated the case will go to the jury this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 16, 2017

James Rosemond Trial Part 2

The James Rosemond Trial

Part Two

November 8

By Don Sikorski

With the start of day two of the trial, news came from the defense that in the 4,000 pages of Facebook posts handed over by the United States Attorney, there is the possibility that those posts contain “Brady Material.” “Brady Material” is any information, reports, records, documents, or anything else held in the possession of the prosecutor that is exculpatory or potentially exculpatory for the defendant. It is called “Brady Material” after the Supreme Court case that handed down the decision that prosecutors were required to give such material to the defense in Brady v. Maryland. “Brady Material” is requested and required in every case. The material in question is messages and communication on Facebook by Jason Williams, the government’s star witness. Williams worked for Jimmy at Czar Entertainment, and the few times I met him, he was always a quiet, office worker who ran errands. He also was an assistant to Jimmy in the music business. Jason, Jimmy’s driver, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder when the government brought the initial case against Jimmy for the murder of Lowell Fletcher. Jason took a plea deal that put him in jail for twenty years. Williams pleaded guilty to driving the car the night the murder crew shot and killed Fletcher.

The government asked him to testify against Jimmy; however, Williams refused to take the stand in the first and second trials. I was informed through confidential sources that the government told Williams if he would now testify against Jimmy, he would not serve anywhere close to twenty-years. He would be home with his family in time for Christmas. It is rumored that his possessions had already been shipped to his mother’s house. The government is giving the defense the Facebook posts; however, you have to understand that the federal prison inmates have a robust life on social media. Williams was allowed to send and receive messages, and now, the content of that information is admissible in the Criminal Justice System. The defense has to review all of this information and pinpoint any communication between Jimmy and Jason. They are looking for any “Brady Material” that they can use at the last minute. It is presumed that Jason will be the last witness the government will call to the stand.

It seems simple enough; the only obstacle is a race against the clock to read through this material. However, the United States Attorney did not make this process easy. He will not allow the defense to actually possess this discovery information. The mandate for the defense is a lawyer has to read the evidence while he/she is being monitored by a U. S. Attorney in his office. How is this a fair practice? Why is a defendant not allowed to go through the information while he is in jail? Why can’t his legal defense review the material at home or anywhere for that matter?

The government’s excuse is pretty standard in these circumstances: They will state that there is personal information and/or pictures in these posts, which they deem confidential. They will present the argument of security of witnesses in order to again run a game of deflection, where the only person who is hurt is the defendant facing a life in jail. The average citizen does not have any idea how long it takes to examine 4,000 pages of information. The government makes it even more difficult because the information is dumped on your lap and out of order. Often, it is presented in a software program, which creates great difficulties in getting access to the information unless you have a computer degree. The timeline is laughable as the examination of the evidence often times is done a few days before the trial or sometimes in just twenty-four hours. Is this fair or just? As day two progressed, the government set the table for the jury. They called Claude Crooks, a security guard from the Bronx, to testify. He stated that he saw a tall, muscular male dressed in all black shoot at Lowell Fletcher. On cross examination, David Touger, Jimmy’s lawyer, asked Crooks if he saw anyone’s face the night of the murder. Crook replied NO! At this point, the only information presented to the jury is a medical examiner stating that Fletcher died of gunshots wounds. Additionally, a crime scene investigator presented seven shell casings, and a good Samaritan nurse spoke about giving CPR to Fletcher’s body. The government methodically explained the crime scene; however, they did not present how and where Fletcher died. The questions have been tedious. In fact, during a brief break, Judge Kaplan basically admonished the government for their slow pace, and a deluge of information that basically told the jury that Fletcher had indeed been shot and killed. He told the U. S. Attorney, Sam Enser, that the four-hour dissemination of information could have been summarized in ten minutes. In the afternoon session, the government presented one of the key witnesses to their case. He is an individual who has testified in Jimmy’s Drug Kingpin case, as well as two, prior murder trials. He is being given a great opportunity to shape, hone, and communicate the most damaging testimony. Mohammed Stewart or Tef was an associate of Jimmy; he was self-described muscle, who was not afraid to shoot, maim, or intimidate anyone. There is no doubt that Tef was a hired gun, and as the government questioned him, he explained that he was the main aggressor in the Hip-Hop feud that started when Jimmy’s thirteen-year-old son was assaulted by members of G-Unit. G-Unit, the record label started by 50 Cent, included Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks. The government spent some painstaking time walking the jury through this clash of record labels, where Jimmy and his cohorts sought revenge against 50 Cent, Chris Lighty, Tony Yayo, and a street thug named Baja Walters. For a jury member, who has no knowledge of Hip-Hop or the underbelly of the business that ties street beef with music, drugs, and guns, his testimony would sound odd and unfamiliar.

Tef stated that he followed Jimmy’s instructions concerning various incidents that Tef planned and executed. These incidents were interesting because they didn’t actually include the motivation to murder anyone. It seemed as if the whole point was to shoot up cars, houses, and office buildings. There were no intentions to shoot anyone. The firebombing of cars, the shooting of bulletproof trucks, and the shooting of empty office vestibules were done many times when no one was present. Tef, did admit on the stand, that for the majority of these incidents, he was alone and making these moves on his own accord. At times, Tef seemed to assume the identity of The Gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Additionally, Tef testified that he was joined by Jimmy or that Jimmy participated in random shootings, such as the one at Tony Yayo’s house. I am sure some of the jurors wondered why these Hip Hop stars, who were traveling the globe, would risk their prestige by participating in random, gun violence.

What the jury will not hear is that in a prior drug case, Tef wore a wire for almost a year. He also recorded phone conversations between himself and Jimmy. I had an opportunity to listen to all of these recordings by reviewing the Legal Discovery. During the time that Tef states he was a big-time, drug dealer, sometimes moving more than 100 kilos of drugs, there was not one recording of Jimmy talking about any crimes he had committed.

David Touger, on cross-examination, did a good job in pointing out a key fact to the jury. For most of Tef’s life, he has been lying to cops, lawyers, judges, and anyone else involved in the Criminal Justice System. It is no secret that his criminal history and his previous crimes involving gun violence would have put him jail for more than twenty years. His testimony for the government in four trials has allowed him to be a free man. It is rumored that he lives in Atlanta. The phrase, “Jimmy told me to do it “ has been Tef’s get-out-of jail, free calling card that he has used again and again. Touger also pointed out at times, Tef couldn’t get in contact with Jimmy, because he would change his cell phone number. If Tef was so close to Jimmy, why wouldn’t Jimmy notify him of this?

In closing, there are big questions to ask. Tef was not involved in any part of the murder of Lowell Fletcher. He was not involved in the conspiracy; however, he did say that Jimmy shared information with him about the shooting of Fletcher. Can the government have it both ways? Can they paint Jimmy as this criminal mastermind, who simply talked about murder plots in everyday conversation? Or is Tef telling the honest truth? The government is using Tef to paint a picture of Jimmy for the jury: Was Tef successful in presenting Jimmy as a drug dealer? Previously, had Jimmy been a part of the violence?

Unfortunately, when it comes to proving beyond a reasonable doubt, Tef’s canvas reflects the violence of the world he lived in. Additionally, it is possible that he had some knowledge about the murder of Lowell Fletcher, but he did not give any information concerning a conspiracy.

 

 

November 16, 2017

James Rosemond Trial Part 3

James Rosemond Trial Part III

November 12th, 2017

By Don Sikorski

 

As the early stages of the trial progressed, it was obvious that now the government was going to present the meat of their case as efficiently as possible to the jury.Khalil Abdullah was called to the stand. His relationship with Jimmy is a key component to every charge that Jimmy faces. Abdullah is a seasoned hustler. . . someone who has been playing the drug game since he was a teenager. In order for the jury to believe Abdullah, they have to take into consideration a few things. Khalil, like Mohammed Stewart, has a storied, criminal past, that includes gun violence and prior, narcotics charges.During the investigation when I produced the documentary series, Unjust Justice, I personally met with Khalil in Harlem and hoped that I would hear a different perspective or his side of the story. For the record, I did not record our encounter or take notes. Khalil was not sure he wanted to be a part of the film, and inevitably, he decided not to participate. It was obvious from our conversation that there was no love loss between Jimmy and Khalil.In the Drug Kingpin trial, the government did a great job of describing a pyramid structure of Jimmy’s so-called “drug organization.” In that pyramid, Khalil was below Jimmy; if you believe the government, Khalil answered and only moved if Jimmy told him to do so. In our conversation, it was apparent that Khalil believed that he and Jimmy were equals. In Khalil’s mind, his trafficking was on par with Jimmy. The truth always falls into some grey area, and in this story, there is a mountain of grey.

Khalil and Jimmy were introduced at a Mosque in Harlem by Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, 66. He is the Imam of the Harlem-based Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood, Inc.. According to his biography, before being elected to his present position in 1989, he served as the assistant Imam of the MIB—which is considered the lineal descendant of the Muslim Mosque, Inc., founded by the late Minister Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz)—from 1975 to 1988.After reading transcripts and talking to other sources about this “drug conspiracy’ ‘trial, Abdullah and a West Coast gangster, Henry “Black” Butler were the government’s star witnesses.If you believe the government, the operation was managed and the hierarchy was established in a top-down, drug corporation. I believe that there is another explanation. While I was working on the documentary, I spoke to some of my sources, and it appeared to me that the crew operated more like a “cocaine investment club.”

Each hustler staked his claim to parcels or orders of drugs that were distributed. The money was compiled, and there was a great deal of freelancing among the so-called players. Once again, in this current, murder trial, the government is using Khalil and Stewart to paint a portrait of mayhem; however, in reality, it is just the opposite. As I listened to the testimony, I was amazed that none of the witnesses have spoken about any violence in regards to the drug operation. The only violence came from the feud between the G-Unit and Czar Entertainment record labels. The government began to pepper questions about the drug dealings and Hip Hop violence. As the jurors listened to the testimony of Khalil Abdullah, they must have experienced an alternative reality: Car bombings, shootings, and the intimidation of witnesses. The average citizen would find the shooting of houses moronic and unnecessary considering most of these guys, according to their own testimonies, were making hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. They traveled in style to Miami and LA; Jimmy flew to Europe. If there was all of this violence and shooting, one could assume that there would have been some retribution in the course of running a drug operation. At times, the proceedings appear surreal. The prosecution and the defense continue to ask questions; however, the “Truth” is elusive. For the last two years, I have examined, investigated, and talked at length with many of these players. I find myself unable to grasp what the truth really is. At this point, it appears that the only people who know the realities are Khalil and Jimmy. Perhaps, we will never know what really happened.

Khalil continued his testimony… the key part of it is the meeting that took place at Mobay’s, a restaurant in Harlem. Khalil described an encounter between Jimmy and himself. He said that Jimmy told him about the conspiracy to murder Lowell Fletcher. After I heard this statement, it was hard for me to believe that Jimmy would talk about a murder in the middle of a public restaurant. Also, would he trust Khalil to give him this information? Why would he randomly boast about the murder knowing the information could come back to haunt him? On cross examination, David Touger did a great job asking some pointed questions: Did Khalil remember the exact date of the meeting? No, he did not. Could he provide travel records for the date in question? He had stated that he traveled from Atlanta to New York City to take this meeting with Jimmy among others?

Once again, Khalil could not produce any documentation that substantiated his travel to New York from Atlanta. As Touger continued to question, the courtroom assumed combative, as well as comedic tones. Because this is the fourth time Khalil has testified, he was calculating and savvy as he sat in his chair in front of the jury. At times, Touger managed to rattle him, but his arrogance and his annoyance were palpable. When I met with Khalil Abdullah, he made it very clear that he wanted to become a government witness because, in his words, “Jimmy was going to “proffer” against him.” (In this regard in a trial, to “proffer” is to offer evidence in support of an agreement with the government.) Khalil believed that it was a race to “proffer” so he could get a better deal. The only problem with that logic is that it is obvious that the government has a vendetta against Jimmy. The net was falling over Jimmy because the government did not have any desire to convict Khalil Abdullah. On redirect, Khalil reiterated the story about Mobay. In addition, he stated that when he and Jimmy tallied their weekly, drug expenses, Jimmy had decided to give a kilo of cocaine to the members of the murder crew. The street value at that time would have have been thirty-thousand dollars. Was that the price agreed upon? Would someone murder for a kilo, and then, in turn, have to sell it? If I was a jury member, I would be totally confused. I have been knee-deep in this world for years. The number of individuals, the nicknames, the Hip Hop violence, and the feuds: I am in overload. I can’t imagine how the jury is sorting out all of this information. I hope they are writing notes and asking many questions. They cannot use Google or read the transcripts, so they are dependent on the information that is given to them during the trial. It is my belief that the presentation by the government has to be precise and easily deciphered; unfortunately, to this point, it has not been so.

Khalil was subpoenaed by the government to testify; he did not, however, go willingly to the stand. It really did not matter. When I met him, he believed that he had fulfilled his obligation. I believe you are never done with the Feds. When a witness has a Cooperation Agreement, the heavy hand of the DEA, FBI, or the United States Attorney is a noose around your neck. If you do not cooperate, they can make your life miserable. At the end of the day, a witness came forward who had not previously testified in the prior proceedings. Jason Williams, Jimmy’s driver and a Jack of all trades in Czar Entertainment, took the stand. His presence was the polar opposite of what Mohammed Stewart and Khalil Abdullah had brought to the courtroom. Stewart and Khalil are arrogant hustlers and gangsters. Jason’s presence was the exact opposite; he was meek, reserved, and although he was thirty-five, he seemed like a stunted youth. His shyness produced answers that were non-committal, and I wonder if that will play differently for the assembled jury. If Touger does not do an incredible job on cross examination, I think the jury could actually believe Williams’ testimony.

 

November 11, 2017

James Rosemond Trial Part II

The James Rosemond Trial

Part Two

November 8

By Don Sikorski

With the start of day two of the trial, news came from the defense that in the 4,000 pages of Facebook posts handed over by the United States Attorney, there is the possibility that those posts contain “Brady Material.” “Brady Material” is any information, reports, records, documents, or anything else held in the possession of the prosecutor that is exculpatory or potentially exculpatory for the defendant. It is called “Brady Material” after the Supreme Court case that handed down the decision that prosecutors were required to give such material to the defense in Brady v. Maryland. “Brady Material” is requested and required in every case

The material in question is messages and communication on Facebook by Jason Williams, the government’s star witness. Williams worked for Jimmy at Czar Entertainment, and the few times I met him, he was always a quiet, office worker who ran errands. He also was an assistant to Jimmy in the music business. Jason, Jimmy’s driver, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder when the government brought the initial case against Jimmy for the murder of Lowell Fletcher. Jason took a plea deal that put him in jail for twenty years. Williams pleaded guilty to driving the car the night the murder crew shot and killed Fletcher. The government asked him to testify against Jimmy; however, Williams refused to take the stand in the first and second trials. I was informed through confidential sources that the government told Williams if he would now testify against Jimmy, he would not serve anywhere close to twenty-years. He would be home with his family in time for Christmas. It is rumored that his possessions had already been shipped to his mother’s house.

The government is giving the defense the Facebook posts; however, you have to understand that the federal prison inmates have a robust life on social media. Williams was allowed to send and receive messages, and now, the content of that information is admissible in the Criminal Justice System. The defense has to review all of this information and pinpoint any communication between Jimmy and Jason. They are looking for any “Brady Material” that they can use at the last minute. It is presumed that Jason will be the last witness the government will call to the stand.

It seems simple enough; the only obstacle is a race against the clock to read through this material. However, the United States Attorney did not make this process easy. He will not allow the defense to actually possess this discovery information. The mandate for the defense is a lawyer has to read the evidence while he/she is being monitored by a U. S. Attorney in his office. How is this a fair practice? Why is a defendant not allowed to go through the information while he is in jail? Why can’t his legal defense review the material at home or anywhere for that matter?

The government’s excuse is pretty standard in these circumstances: They will state that there is personal information and/or pictures in these posts, which they deem confidential. They will present the argument of security of witnesses in order to again run a game of deflection, where the only person who is hurt is the defendant facing a life in jail.The average citizen does not have any idea how long it takes to examine 4,000 pages of information. The government makes it even more difficult because the information is dumped on your lap and out of order. Often, it is presented in a software program, which creates great difficulties in getting access to the information unless you have a computer degree. The timeline is laughable as the examination of the evidence often times is done a few days before the trial or sometimes in just twenty-four hours. Is this fair or just?

As day two progressed, the government set the table for the jury. They called Claude Crooks, a security guard from the Bronx, to testify. He stated that he saw a tall, muscular male dressed in all black shoot at Lowell Fletcher. On cross examination, David Touger, Jimmy’s lawyer, asked Crooks if he saw anyone’s face the night of the murder. Crook replied NO! At this point, the only information presented to the jury is a medical examiner stating that Fletcher died of gunshots wounds. Additionally, a crime scene investigator presented seven shell casings, and a good Samaritan nurse spoke about giving CPR to Fletcher’s body.

The government methodically explained the crime scene; however, they did not present how and where Fletcher died. The questions have been tedious. In fact, during a brief break, Judge Kaplan basically admonished the government for their slow pace, and a deluge of information that basically told the jury that Fletcher had indeed been shot and killed. He told the U. S. Attorney, Sam Enser, that the four-hour dissemination of information could have been summarized in ten minutes. In the afternoon session, the government presented one of the key witnesses to their case. He is an individual who has testified in Jimmy’s Drug Kingpin case, as well as two, prior murder trials. He is being given a great opportunity to shape, hone, and communicate the most damaging testimony. Mohammed Stewart or Tef was an associate of Jimmy; he was self-described muscle, who was not afraid to shoot, maim, or intimidate anyone. There is no doubt that Tef was a hired gun, and as the government questioned him, he explained that he was the main aggressor in the Hip-Hop feud that started when Jimmy’s thirteen-year-old son was assaulted by members of G-Unit. G-Unit, the record label started by 50 Cent, included Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks. The government spent some painstaking time walking the jury through this clash of record labels, where Jimmy and his cohorts sought revenge against 50 Cent, Chris Lighty, Tony Yayo, and a street thug named Baja Walters. For a jury member, who has no knowledge of Hip-Hop or the underbelly of the business that ties street beef with music, drugs, and guns, his testimony would sound odd and unfamiliar.

Tef stated that he followed Jimmy’s instructions concerning various incidents that Tef planned and executed. These incidents were interesting because they didn’t actually include the motivation to murder anyone. It seemed as if the whole point was to shoot up cars, houses, and office buildings. There were no intentions to shoot anyone. The firebombing of cars, the shooting of bulletproof trucks, and the shooting of empty office vestibules were done many times when no one was present. Tef, did admit on the stand, that for the majority of these incidents, he was alone and making these moves on his own accord. At times, Tef seemed to assume the identity of The Gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Additionally, Tef testified that he was joined by Jimmy or that Jimmy participated in random shootings, such as the one at Tony Yayo’s house. I am sure some of the jurors wondered why these Hip Hop stars, who were traveling the globe, would risk their prestige by participating in random, gun violence. What the jury will not hear is that in a prior drug case, Tef wore a wire for almost a year. He also recorded phone conversations between himself and Jimmy. I had an opportunity to listen to all of these recordings by reviewing the Legal Discovery. During the time that Tef states he was a big-time, drug dealer, sometimes moving more than 100 kilos of drugs, there was not one recording of Jimmy talking about any crimes he had committed.

David Touger, on cross-examination, did a good job in pointing out a key fact to the jury. For most of Tef’s life, he has been lying to cops, lawyers, judges, and anyone else involved in the Criminal Justice System. It is no secret that his criminal history and his previous crimes involving gun violence would have put him jail for more than twenty years. His testimony for the government in four trials has allowed him to be a free man. It is rumored that he lives in Atlanta. The phrase, “Jimmy told me to do it “ has been Tef’s get-out-of jail, free calling card that he has used again and again. Touger also pointed out at times, Tef couldn’t get in contact with Jimmy, because he would change his cell phone number. If Tef was so close to Jimmy, why wouldn’t Jimmy notify him of this?

In closing, there are big questions to ask. Tef was not involved in any part of the murder of Lowell Fletcher. He was not involved in the conspiracy; however, he did say that Jimmy shared information with him about the shooting of Fletcher. Can the government have it both ways? Can they paint Jimmy as this criminal mastermind, who simply talked about murder plots in everyday conversation? Or is Tef telling the honest truth? The government is using Tef to paint a picture of Jimmy for the jury: Was Tef successful in presenting Jimmy as a drug dealer? Previously, had Jimmy been a part of the violence? Unfortunately, when it comes to proving beyond a reasonable doubt, Tef’s canvas reflects the violence of the world he lived in. Additionally, it is possible that he had some knowledge about the murder of Lowell Fletcher, but he did not give any information concerning a conspiracy.