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Articles on this Page
- 04/24/13--13:14: _Testimony Ends In K...
- 04/24/13--13:35: _Billy Doe's Lucky S...
- 04/25/13--07:07: _Savage Tape No. 4: ...
- 04/25/13--14:03: _Fumo's Lawyers Chal...
- 04/28/13--14:02: _Msgr. Lynn's "Craft...
- 04/29/13--14:43: _Prosecutor Cites `K...
- 04/29/13--17:40: _National Catholic R...
- 05/01/13--13:58: _Five Questions The ...
- 05/06/13--09:33: _Savage Tape No. 5: ...
- 05/06/13--09:39: _The Savage Story: A...
- 05/07/13--06:16: _Bigtrial On The Big...
- 05/10/13--12:35: _Fumo Case May Be He...
- 05/13/13--14:33: _Catholic League See...
- 05/13/13--14:39: _Kaboni Savage Guilt...
- 05/16/13--12:59: _The Continuing Sile...
- 05/20/13--06:49: _Banned By The Inky
- 05/20/13--07:41: _Catholic League Att...
- 05/21/13--14:24: _Life Or Death In Ka...
- 05/27/13--14:18: _A Killer Who Loved ...
- 05/28/13--09:06: _Savage Tape No. 6: ...
- 04/24/13--13:14: Testimony Ends In Kaboni Savage Trial
- 04/24/13--13:35: Billy Doe's Lucky Streak Continues
- 04/25/13--07:07: Savage Tape No. 4: "These Rats Got A Problem."
- 04/25/13--14:03: Fumo's Lawyers Challenge IRS, Seek U.S. Appeals Court Hearing
- 04/29/13--14:43: Prosecutor Cites `Kaboni Savage In His Own Words"
- 04/29/13--17:40: National Catholic Reporter's Philadelphia Story
- 05/01/13--13:58: Five Questions The D.A. Won't Answer
- 05/06/13--09:33: Savage Tape No. 5: "That's how I was taught."
- 05/06/13--09:39: The Savage Story: A Cold And Brutal Saga Of Death And Destruction
- 05/07/13--06:16: Bigtrial On The Big Talker
- 05/10/13--12:35: Fumo Case May Be Headed Back To Judge Buckwalter
- 05/13/13--14:33: Catholic League Seeks Investigation of District Attorney's Office
- 05/13/13--14:39: Kaboni Savage Guilty Of 12 Murders
- 05/16/13--12:59: The Continuing Silence Of The Archbishop And The Inky
- 05/20/13--06:49: Banned By The Inky
- 05/20/13--07:41: Catholic League Attacks The Philadelphia Inquirer
- 05/21/13--14:24: Life Or Death In Kaboni Savage Trial
- 05/27/13--14:18: A Killer Who Loved His Little Daughter
- 05/28/13--09:06: Savage Tape No. 6: "Pour it on them burnt bitches!"
By George Anastasia
The defense and the prosecution both rested their cases today in the murder-racketeering trial of Kaboni Savage and three co-defendants, setting the stage for closing arguments to begin Monday in federal court in Philadelphia.
Savage, 38, and two co-defendants, Robert Merritt, 31, and Steven Northington, 41, could be sentenced to death if convicted of any of the 12 homicides listed in the case. The fourth defendant, Savage's sister Kidada, 30, could be sentenced to life.
The murders include the deaths of two women and four children killed in an October 2004 firebombing of a North Philadelphia rowhouse. The arson, authorities allege, was ordered by Kaboni Savage.
The prosecution rested this afternoon after calling one rebuttal witness, FBI Agent Kevin Lewis. Lewis was called to the stand a half dozen times during the 12-week trial, usually to explain evidence gathered during the investigation or to introduce secretly recorded conversations that came from wiretaps or from listening devices.
The anonymously chosen jury of nine women and three men (as well as six alternates) heard more than 300 conversations during the trial. Those were culled from nearly 20,000 recordings made during the decade-long investigation into the Savage drug organization.
Lewis and Philadelphia Police Detective Thomas Zielinski spearheaded that probe. Savage was convicted of drug trafficking in 2005 and is currently serving a 30-year sentence. Authorities allege he ran a multi-million dollar cocaine distribution network that used fear, intimidation and murder to control a segment of the North Philadelphia drug underworld.
Witness intimidation was a major tool used by Savage, prosecutors alleged during the trial.
On one of the tapes he succinctly articulated his philosophy -- "No witness. No crime."
The firebombing was cited repeatedly during the trial at a prime example of Savage's heartless and cold-blooded approach to the business of drug dealing. The victims of that arson were family members of Eugene "Twin" Coleman, a Savage associate who had become a government witness.
Authorities also allege that the murder of Tybius Flowers in March 2004 was part of that pattern of intimidation.
Northington has been charged with that killing.
Flowers, like Savage a boxer and drug dealer, was scheduled to testify for the District Attorney's Office in a homicide case against Savage when he was killed. Without its key witness, the DA's case collapsed. Savage was acquitted.
Northington is charged with one other homicide, but not the firebombing.
Kidada Savage is charged with arranging the arson by relaying messages from her imprisoned brother to Lamont Lewis, a drug dealer and underworld hitman who worked for the Savage organization. Merritt, Lewis's cousin, is charged with taking part in the firebombing.
Lewis, 37, testified for the prosecution in the case under a plea deal in which he faces a sentence of 40 years to life. He said he recruited his cousin to help after Savage ordered the firebombing in a coded phone message from prison on Oct. 8, 2004.
Lewis testified that Kidada Savage provided the specific details later that day and drove him past the Coleman rowhome on North Sixth Street. Lewis testified that neither he nor Merritt knew there were children in the home at the time they threw two gasoline cans into the house. The explosion set off the fire in which Coleman's mother, Marcella, his 15-month-old infant son and four others were killed.
In an attempt to refute Lewis' testimony, Kidada Savage's lawyers called several witnesses who said they were in the home when the Oct. 8 phone call occurred. They testified that Kidada never spoke with Lewis and never left the home with him that day.
Merritt, through his lawyer, has also denied involvement in the firebombing. In addition to Lewis' testimony, records of a police traffic stop in the early morning hours of Oct. 9 place Merritt and Lewis in a car together. The firebombing occur around 6 a.m., about two hours after that traffic stop.
Testimony in the trial ended much as it had begun today with FBI Agent Kevin Lewis on the stand and the jury once again listening in on Kaboni Savage. Two of four tapes played -- like so many of the others played during the trial -- consisted of Savage ranting and railing against "rats," witnesses who were cooperating with the government.
On one, recorded in the visitor's room of the Federal Detention Center in December 2004, two months after the firebombing, Kaboni Savage tells his sister Kidada (who had not been charged at that time and was free) to pass a message on to an associate about another cooperator.
"Tell him to fuck him up," Savage said.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
Since he became the district attorney's star witness, "Billy Doe" has had a remarkable run of good fortune in the criminal courts.
|The scene outside CJC after the Engelhardt-Shero Verdict|
The charges from two previous arrests in 2009 and 2010, both for retail theft, were dropped in 2010 after witnesses in both cases did not show up for court.
On Jan. 7, 2011, a judge dismissed a charge of possession with intent to distribute narcotics, after ruling that police did not have probable cause on June 9, 2010 to stop Billy Doe on the street. When police searched Billy Doe, they found 56 bags of heroin in his shorts. However, the late Judge Adam Beloff ruled the heroin was inadmissible as evidence; the charges were dropped and the case dismissed.
But now that the trials are over, and Billy Doe is done as a witness in the criminal courts, that last drug possession charge is about to disappear.
So while Billy Doe continues to be a lucky guy in the criminal courts, it's a bit of a mystery how he qualified for the AMP program.
He's been arrested six times between 2008 and 2011, and he's previously bombed out of a similar program.
Don't expect officials to shine any light on the mystery.
Here's what we know about Billy Doe's previous enrollment in a program similar to AMP.
Billy Doe's first arrest as an adult came on May 8, 2008, when he was 19. He was arrested in Northhampton Township, Bucks County, for possession of drug paraphernalia and an offensive weapon, namely brass knuckles. Billy Doe pleaded guilty on June 30, 2010 and was put on probation for a year under a program known as accelerated rehabilitative disposition [ARD].
If Billy stayed clean for a year, under ARD, the charges from his 2008 arrest would have been expunged from Billy's record.
There was no objection from the Commonwealth.
On March 15, 2013, the judge granted another continuance until April 11, when Billy Doe pleaded no contest.
Did Billy Doe's role as the D.A.'s star witness against the archdiocese have any effect on the D.A.'s decision to agree to the numerous continuances in Billy's drug case, as well as letting Billy Doe into AMP?
We await answers from Silent Seth Williams.
Sadly, no one else is pursuing him.
In Philadelphia, with the exception of this blog, no other media outlet has shown any interest in either the shocking verdict in the Engelhardt-Shero case, or the lingering questions about the district attorney's prosecution of the church.
The national media, to date, has also been absent from the discussion.
So District Attorney Seth Williams has been able to escape answering any questions about a compromised investigation, a flawed grand jury report, and an unstable star witness whose allegations have been refuted by his own mother, his older brother, and the priests, nuns and teachers at St. Jerome's.
But all of that, dear readers, is about to change.
The National Catholic Reporter is about to publish a long story about the district attorney's self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
You may know the author.
All of which puts Silent Seth in a bit of a quandary.
Stiffing a local blog is one thing; stiffing a respected national media outlet is another matter.
Will the district attorney continue to stonewall, or will he finally have to answer some questions?
By Ralph Cipriano
While Vince Fumo continues to reside in a federal prison in Kentucky, his lawyers back home in Philadelphia are busy on two fronts.
|Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert Zauzmer|
Regarding Fumo's problems with the IRS, the trouble started on March 21, when Fumo got a visit in prison from an IRS agent bearing a notice from Guadalupe N. Ortiz, acting area director of the agency's Philadelphia office. The IRS was formally notifying Fumo that he was being hit with an extremely rare "notice of jeopardy assessment and levy," which, including tax, interest and penalties, amounted to a bill for a total of $2.9 million.
In addition to the assessment, the IRS also served levies on several financial institutions, freezing Fumo's assets.
|Mark E. Cedrone|
|Judge M. Teresa Sarmina|
During the trial last year of Msgr. William J. Lynn, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington advised the jury to pay attention to the judge's instructions, and not be swayed by Lynn's "very skillful, very crafty, very well paid defense attorneys."
Blessington's comments, as well as the judge's absence of admonishment, are among the more colorful issues being argued in more than 300 pages of appeals court documents filed in Superior Court.
On April 12, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina filed a 235-page opinion, defending her handling of the 13-week trial that resulted in the June 22, 2012 conviction of Msgr. Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of a child. The monsignor is now serving a three-to-six year prison term imposed by Judge Sarmina.
In her opinion, Judge Sarmina defended the rhetorical excesses of the prosecutor, as well as her decision to let into the Lynn case 21 supplemental cases of previous sex abuse, dating back to 1948, two years before Lynn was born, to show a pattern of bad behavior in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
"The admissibility of evidence is within the sound discretion of the trial court," Judge Sarmina writes. "Evidence of 'other crimes, wrongs, or acts,' which is offered for a relavant purpose other than criminal character/propensity, is admissible so long as the probative value of such evidence outweighs its potential for prejudice."
While defense lawyers had claimed the judge abused her powers of discretion, Judge Sarmina said she let in the 21 supplemental cases so that the jury could get inside Lynn's head.
On April 26th, defense lawyers Thomas A. Bergstrom and Allison Khaskelis filed a 16-page supplemental brief, on top of their original 71-page appeal on April 16th, to refute what the judge had to say in her 235-page opinion.
"The lower court devotes 160 pages of her opinion in an effort to justify the admission ... of criminal and immoral acts of 21 other priests, which the lower court claims shed light on [Lynn]'s knowledge, motive and intent when he supervised [Father Edward V.] Avery," the defense lawyers write.
On page 18 of Judge Sarminia's opinion, it says, "Just before the spring of 1999, [Billy Doe] encountered Avery inside the church on a Friday afternoon while [Billy Doe] was doing bell maintenance, part of his duties as an altar server. Avery pulled the boy aside and told him "that he heard about my 'sessions' with Father Engelhardt and that ours were going to begin soon."
Detectives were told by the church's longtime music director and one of Billy Doe's former teachers that Billy Doe did not serve as a member of the bell maintenance crew in fifth grade. Only eighth grade boys were big and strong enough to lift the heavy bells and other equipment, the music director and the teacher told detectives.
As to where Judge Sarmina got the idea that putting away the bells was part of an altar boy's duties, I have no clue.
The judge and defense lawyers also spar over Judge Sarmina's decision to up the ante if the defense decided it was going to cross-examine Billy Doe.
"The trial court erred and abused its discretion and denied [Lynn] his right" to confront his accuser, the defense argued, by compelling the defendant to forego the cross-examination of [Billy Doe]."
The risk the defense was worried about was Judge Sarmina allowing the prosecution to drag Avery back into court after his guilty plea, presumably wearing a jumpsuit. The defense was worried about the effect that would have on a jury.
On the eve of the Lynn trial last year, Avery, Lynn's codefendant, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor, and conspiring with Msgr. Lynn to endanger the welfare of a child.
"The defendant argues that this Court violated his right of confrontation ... by compelling him to forgo cross-examination of [Billy Doe] because of the possibility that Avery's guilty pela would be introduced in rebuttal," the judge wrote. "This claim is without merit."
To prove her point, the judge quoted this portion of the trial transcript:
Judge Sarmina: "And so it's very possible that, depending, on your cross-examination, that I may allow the [Avery guilty] plea. .. And it may very well be that I order the Commonweath to have defendant or now convicted felon Avery be brought in to be cross-examined. So that there's no cross-examination issue. So I don't know which way I'll go."
Defense Attorney Bergstrom: "How will I know? Will like a light go on or something?"
Judge: "I want you to represent your client zealously."
Bergstrom: "If I'm getting too close out, look out?"
Judge Sarmina: "I want you to represent your client zealously as you have done ... And it may very well be that, in light of all that, that I tell the Commonwealth that if they want to bring that into evidence, that then they'll have to actually bring Avery in and present his -- he might be asked two questions, you know. Did you enter a guilty plea to molesting [Billy Doe]? Yes or no?"
The judge has been criticized for not asking Avery when he pleaded guilty whether he actually did the deed. At the second archdiocese sex abuse trial, where Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero were tried and found guilty of raping Billy Doe, the prosecution did bring Avery in as a witness.
And Avery, of course, told the prosecutor he didn't touch Billy Doe, he only agreed to plead guilty to something he didn't do because he was 69 years old, and looking at a sentence of more than 20 years in jail. Instead, Avery pleaded guilty and is serving a prison term of 2 1/2 to 5 years.
The defense lawyers in the Lynn case, to their everlasting regret, decided not to cross-examine Billy Doe.
Don't blame me for your strategic decisions, says Judge Sarmina.
"The fact that cross-examining [Billy Doe] in a fashion that insinuated that [Billy Doe] had fabricated his sexual assault by Avery might have 'opened the door' to evidence that Avery had admitted to sexually abusing [Billy Doe] does not convert counsel's strategic decision into something that was compelled by this court," the judge wrote. "The defendant's lawyers chose not to cross-examine [Billy Doe], and therefore, this court never had to rule on this issue."
In their supplemental brief, the defense lawyers take Judge Sarmina to task for not addressing their argument that Lynn was unfairly charged with endangering the welfare of a child [EWOC] under an old state law that did not apply to him.
Lynn actually has a compelling argument here.
In 2005, then District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a previous grand jury looked at the old EWOC law and declared that it didn't apply to Msgr. Lynn or Cardinal Bevilacqua, or any other member of the archdiocese hierarchy. Instead, the law applied to those who had direct contact with children, such as parents, guardians and teachers, the grand jury said.
The district attorney then campaigned for a new EWOC law that included people who oversaw those in direct contact with children. During their campaign to pass the new law, the district attorney's office admitted that if the law was changed, nothing could be done retroactively to indict archdiocese officials such as Lynn.
And then a new district attorney, Seth Williams took office. The new D.A. and a new grand jury looked at the same old EWOC law and decided it did apply to Msgr. Lynn.
The defense was also upset that in her brief, Judge Sarmina stated as a fact that Lynn had "petitioned Cardinal Bevilacqua to allow [Father Ed] Avery to live at St. Jerome's."
Lynn "merely indicated to the cardinal in a memorandum that Avery had expressed a preference for living at a rectory," the defense lawyers wrote. Lynn "simply served as a conduit of information between Avery and Cardinal Bevilacqua. The record is devoid of any indication that [Lynn] expressed any personal preference or plea to the cardinal on this matter."
The defense lawyers in their supplemental brief, also say that Judge Sarmina misleadingly argued that Lynn was knowledgeable about "grooming" behavior of predator priests such as Avery.
"The trial court misleadingly devotes much attention to [Lynn's] knowledge of the tendency of abusive priests in general and Avery in particular to 'groom' their victims," the defense lawyers write. "In fact, the trial court argues that [Billy Doe] and other unnamed minors were forseeable victims of Avery's, because of Avery's propensity to 'groom.'"
"Signficiantly, the trial court fails to clarify that [Billy Doe] was not 'groomed,' the defense lawyers write. "During his April 25, 2012, trial tesimony, [Billy Doe] recounted a story of a violent and random attack by a priest [Avery] he barely knew. Avery certainly never befriended [Billy Doe]'s family or developed a connection to [Billy Doe] over a period of years as had been the case with" previous victims.
"At no point did the Commonwealth provide any evidence, by way of an expert or otherwise, to meet its burden of proving that [Billy Doe]'s escalating attack was foreseeable," the defense lawyers write. "The trial court's description of this information is, most generously, an overeach from the evidence actually presented at trial."
By George Anastasia
The question is at the heart of the prosecution's case against North Philadelphia drug kingpin Kaboni Savage.
"How does he run from his own words,?" Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gallagher asked a federal jury today as he detailed the case against Savage and three co-defendants in closing arguments at the 13-week old trial.
Alternately methodical, articulate, impassioned and poignant, Gallagher laid out the case for more than five hours to a jury that could determine whether Savage and two of those co-defendants live or die. All three face potential death sentences in convicted of any of the 12 homicides that are part of the case.
Savage, Gallagher argued, used a "scorched earth strategy" to control his drug empire and to silence witnesses who might cooperate against him.
The trial included testimony from dozens of witnesses, including several former top associates of the drug lord. In addition, the anonymously chosen jury heard over 300 secretly recorded conversations in which Savage discussed his drug businesses and ranted about cooperators, threatening again and again to kill them and their families.
Eight of the 12 murders listed in the case have been tied to witness intimidation, according to the prosecution. They include the October 2004 firebombing of a North Sixth Street row house in which two women and four children were killed. The victims were all family members of Eugene Coleman, a Savage associate who had begun cooperating.
Those killed in that early morning blaze included Coleman's mother and his 15-month old son.
The house, "a refuge from the drugs and violence of the neighborhood," Gallagher said in an impassioned opening to his lengthy argument, was "turned into an inferno" on Savage's orders.
"He slaughtered the Coleman family to avenge the betrayal of one of his trusted associates," Gallagher told the jury. "Everything Eugene Coleman loved had to go."
Gallagher, one of three prosecutors in the case, is expected to conclude his arguments when the trial resumes tomorrow. The jury will then hear from the four defense attorneys. A government rebuttal and the judge's charge on the law will complete the closing process. Jury deliberation could begin later this week.
Gallagher effectively sprinkled snippets of Savage's own words into his detailed account of the case. The jury heard lengthier segments during the trial from conversations picked up on FBI wiretaps or from listening devices planted in Savage's prison cell.
"I'll kill what they love," Savage said on one tape in which he plotted to murder family members of cooperators.
"Without no witness, you ain't got no case," he said in another conversation that Gallagher said underscored his philosophy of witness intimidation and murder. "Without no fuckin' witness, there ain't no crime."
Gallagher also pointed to a tape in which Savage, discussing two small children of another associate who became a witness, said he wanted to "kill both them little bastards...Hit them with a 12-gauge Mossberg."
A Mossberg is a particularly lethal shotgun.
The tapes were gathered during a decade-long federal investigation into the Savage drug ring, an organization that authorities allege dumped hundreds of pounds of cocaine onto the streets of North Philadelphia between 1998 and 2005. Savage was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced in 30 years in prison in 2005.
Savage, 38, is being tried along with his sister, Kidada, 30, Robert Merritt, 31, and Steven Northington, 41.
Kidada Savage faces life in prison. She is charged with helping set up on the firebombing of the Coleman home on orders from her then imprisoned brother. Merritt is charged with throwing a gas can into the home. He could receive the death penalty.
His cousin Lamont Lewis, 37, another top Savage associate, testified for the prosecution. Lewis said he recruited Merritt to take part in the arson. Lewis said he was acting on Kaboni Savage's orders relayed through Kidada Savage. But he insisted that neither he nor Merritt knew there were children in the home.
Northington is charged with two other murders, including the killing of Tibius Flowers. Flowers, like Savage, was both a drug dealer and a professional boxer. He was killed the day before he was to testify for the District Attorney's Office in a homicide case against Savage in 2004.
Without Flower's testimony, the case fell apart. Savage was acquitted.
Savage, Gallagher told the jury, orchestrated crimes of vengeance and of hate. He controlled his drug operations by creating a "climate of fear" in which he and his associates thrived.
And he talked about all of those things again and again on tapes recorded by the FBI and played at the trial.
"It was Kaboni Savage in his own words, " Gallagher said. And it is, he prosecutor argued, proof behind a reasonable doubt of Savage's guilt.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
NCR story can be read here
By Ralph Cipriano
Here are the questions from National Catholic Reporter that District Attorney Seth Williams declined to answer:
1. At the plea bargain hearing of Edward V. Avery, why didn't the district attorney ask the former priest if he had raped Billy Doe?
By George Anastasia
Jurors deliberating the fate of cocaine kingpin Kaboni Savage heard 13 weeks of testimony that was full of murder and mayhem. The case featured 12 homicides, including a firebombing in which two women and four children were "cooked" alive, according to the prosecution.
But what the panel of nine women and three men (in addition to six alternates) also got during the trial was an insider's view of the drug underworld, a seldom heard, first-person account delivered in bits and pieces by a series of government witnesses who did business on some of the meanest streets in the toughest neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia.
"We were like the Black Mafia," said Eugene Coleman, one of several former Savage drug associates who testified against him.
"He would supply the drugs and if there was any problems, he would have my back," said Lamont Lewis, a Savage hitman-turned-witness.
"You need protection in the drug game," added Paul Daniels, another Savage associate who took the stand.
The jury, which began deliberations today, heard from nearly a dozen former drug dealers who had cut deals with the government.
While some of the particulars varied, they all told parts of the same story, a cold and brutal saga of death and destruction played out against the backdrop of what authorities say was a multi-million dollar cocaine distribution network. Prosecutors said Savage, 38, headed a drug ring that dumped hundreds of kilos of the deadly powder on the city during an eight-year period beginning in 1995.
Christian Hoey, Savage's own court-appointed lawyer, conceded that his client was a drug dealer. (Savage was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 30 years in 2005 based on some of the same evidence introduced in the current case.) But in his closing arguments to the jury last week, Hoey argued that there was no criminal enterprise or Kaboni Savage Organization, as prosecutors alleged.
Rather, he said, Savage and the witnesses who testified against him were all swimming in the same "shark tank" where one wrong move could result in your execution, where today's ally was tomorrow's enemy and where loyalty was a commodity like drugs that could be bought and sold, a product that usually went to the highest bidder.
Savage (could there be a more appropriate surname for a man prosecutors have portrayed as a heatless and ruthless killer?) and two of his three co-defendants face potential death sentences if convicted of the murder charges that are part of the case.
Eight of the 12 murders were tied to what the prosecution said was witness intimidation, Savage's "scorched earth" strategy of using violence to keep witnesses off the stand. On one of the hundreds to tapes played for the jury, Savage succinctly captured that philosophy: "No fuckin' witness, no case."
Savage's words, picked up on wiretaps and on listening devices planted in his prison cell, helped paint the picture -- a self-portrait prosecutors would argue --- of a major player in the violent Philadelphia drug underworld.
Whether on the streets or in prison, authorities argued, Savage was able to order hitman to carry out his wishes. Lewis and the late Kareem Bluntly were two of the deadliest.
The prosecutors also argued that Savage used murder as a business tool, pointing to the almost inexplicable murder of Kenneth Lassiter in March 1998 as a prime example. Lassister died of a gunshot to the stomach at the corner of 8th and Butler in North Philadelphia.
Minutes before he died, he had had the misfortune of bumping Savage's car with his own. "Less than a fender bender," a prosecutor said. But after a brief argument over "payment" for the damages, Savage pulled a gun and shot Lassister, a man he had never met, at point blank range.
Cold blooded, to be sure, prosecutors argued. But also calculated. Authorities contend that the shooting had less to do with the fender bender than it did with life on the corner. Eighth and Butler was a notorious drug corner "owned" by Tybius Flower, a drug rival who, witnesses said, Savage "hated."
By committing a murder on Flowers' corner, authorities said, Savage was able to shut down Flowers' drug dealing. A murder brought police and a police presence made drug dealing impossible. Eventually Flowers got his business back up and running, but he never forgot and that may have been one of the reasons he agreed to testify for the District Attorney's Office against Savage who was indicted for the Lassiter murder.
"Kaboni hated Tibby," several witnesses testified.
Both men were from North Philadelphia. Both had been professional boxers. Flowers' decision to cooperate, while in theory a violation of the code of the street, was viewed by many as an act of revenge for what Savage had done on his corner.
Flowers declined a District Attorney's Office offer for protection. He stayed on the streets. And on March 1, 2004, on the same 8th and Butler corner, he was shot 17 times. The shooting occurred just two days before Savage was to go on trial for murder.
He was never worried. From his prison cell, he had taken care of business, witnesses said.
"He told me he ain't sweating it (the trial for the Lassiter murder)," Lewis testified. "He said Tibby would never make it to court."
Wtihout Flowers, the Lassiter case fell apart. Savage was acquitted of that murder in a two-day trial.
Lewis, a hulking, tattooed assassin who is facing 40 years to life in prison under his cooperating agreement, admitted to eight murders that he said he carried out on Savage's orders.
"I never questioned it," he said. "That's what I did for our team."
By taking the stand, he violated the code that was captured on a tattoo scrawled across his abdomen: "Ride Or Die." Savage expected his associates to "ride" out any investigation. The alternative was death.
Other tattoos that were part of the North Philadelphia drug underworld includes "MOB," which Lewis and others said stood for "Money Over Bitches." Several witnesses also sported "EAM" across their hand or arm. That was for "Erie Avenue Mob."
Women and sex were also part of the life. When Lewis was questioned on cross-examination about a murder he had committed, it was suggested that the motive might have been a dispute over a woman that both he and the victim were "dating."
He scoffed at the idea that he was dating the woman, acknowledged that both he and his victim had had sexual relations with her, but then added, that so had "about five other people in the neighborhood."
Lewis also testified about how he and the victim had stopped at Condom Nation on South Street to pick up "products." The hapless victim, he said, thought Lewis was giving him a ride to his girlfriend's house. Minutes later, on a dark street in Southwest Philadelphia, Lewis said he shot the victim in the head.
Coleman also told a skin-crawling sexual tale to the jury -- an underworld version of the "who's ben sleeping in my bed" fairy tale. While working for Savage, Coleman was living in an apartment Savage owned of Palmetto Street. But, he said, others also had access to the place.
When asked to explain how he knew that, he cited an incident involving co-defendant Steven Northington. One day when he returned to the apartment, Coleman testified, "the bed sheets were full of crabs."
Norhington, he said, admitted he had brought a woman to the apartment for sex.
"That's that dirty broad I had brought to the apartment," he said Northington told him, adding that Northington "helped me buy another bed."
Lewis also told of another murder that he carried for a paraplegic drug dealer who had been assaulted by his girlfriend. The girlfriend, Lewis said, was trying to extort the drug dealer. At one point, he cut him "a hundred times" with a razor and then threw bleach on the cuts. The dealer wanted her dead and paid Lewis to kill her.
He wanted her shot in the face. Lewis said that's what he did.
Lewis' victims included the family of Eugene Coleman, killed in the 2004 firebombing and drug dealers Carlton Brown and Barry Parker. The firebombing was an attempt to silence Coleman and/or a back pay for his disloyalty.
Brown had killed a friend of Savage's and his murder was revenge. Parker was dealing drugs on a corner that Steven Northington controlled. Parker's murder was business.
"This is what we do, we handle our business," Savage told associates after Parker was killed.
The business of drug dealing was a big part of the trial testimony. Jurors heard how dealers would "pump" a corner by giving away free drugs for a day or two. This was a way to attract business and establish a reputation.
They also heard how Savage routinely diluted his cocaine, using high-pressure compression machines to pack and seal kilogram bricks of powder for sale after they had been diluted.
The math was simple. Savage was buying cocaine in bulk, authorities said, 10 or 20 kilograms at a time. A kilogram usually sold for about $24,000 and, depending on the market, Savage could resell it on the streets for a profit of from $500 to $3,000 per kilogram.
But he discovered a way to enhance his profit margin by diluting the kilograms and recompressing the bricks. According to testimony, Savage and his associates would take 125 grams out of a kilogram (1,000 grams) and replace it with a powdery substance known as "cut." By doing this, seven kilograms could be cut and repackaged as eight kilograms. That eighth kilogram, sold at a market price of from $25,000 to $28,000, was pure profit.
Savage balked and threatened to kill suppliers who were cutting the product they were selling to him, but he had no problems making the recompression process part of his network, prosecutors allege.
"It's only cheating if you get caught," he told an associate.
Mansur Abdullah, 22, another associate, was killed because he had learned of the recompression process and was trying to do it on his own. Coleman, in detailed testimony, told the jury how Abdullah had been paid $25,000 for a kilogram of cocaine that he delivered to Savage's home on North Darien Street.
The money was in a red box that had once contained a new pair of sneakers, Coleman said. Abduillah left the house with Kareem Bluntly. A short time later, Savage got a phone called and directed Coleman to drive to a location and pick Bluntly up. When he arrived, Coleman said, Bluntly was carrying the red sneaker box full of cash.
At that point, Coleman said, he knew Abdullah was dead.
Coleman said Bluntly also killed Tyrone Tolliver in an apartment where Coleman was living and compressing drugs for Savage. Tolliver was killed, Coleman said, because Savage suspected he was cooperating.
Coleman described Tolliver as one of his best friends and said he had no idea he was going to be killed. Nevertheless, he said, he helped dispose of the body and clean up the apartment after the shooting.
"That was my friend and they killed him right in front of me," Coleman said quietly from the witness stand while admitting that he lied to Tolliver's family and kept silent about the murder when the FBI first questioned him. Even after he began cooperating, he said, he hesitated in linking Savage to the murder, telling authorities it was Bluntly who killed Tolliver.
"Kaboni could do more damage than Bree," Coleman said in a comment that was even more disturbing to a jury that had already heard about the firebombing..
Those who testified against Savage risked not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones, prosecutors argued throughout the trial.
Tolliver lost his life. Coleman survived, but paid a staggering price for cooperating. His mother, his 15-month old son, his step-sister, two nephews, aged 15 and 12, and a niece, aged 10, were killed in the firebombing.
"Everything Eugene Coleman loved had to go," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gallagher told the jury in a seven-hour summation that outlined the case.
Hoey, in his closing arguments, tried to separate his client from the violence, arguing that the witnesses had blamed Savage for many of their own criminal acts.
The prosecution's case, Hoey said, came from "corrupt and polluted sources." The government's witnesses, he argued, "put their hand on that Bible, looked you in the eye and lied to your face."
They all operated in a "shark tank," he said, "diving in, getting what they could and getting out."
If the jury returns with guilty verdicts, there will be a death penalty phase in the trial, setting up the possibility that the case will continue for the rest of the month. And also setting up the possibility that even more details about life in the drug underworld will be made public.
George Anastasia can be contacted as George@bigtrial.net.
Listen to the May 6 radio interview between Ralph Cipriano and Rich Zeoli here:
By Ralph Cipriano
Buckwalter is the judge who back in 2009 originally sentenced Fumo to 55 months in jail and ordered him to pay $2.7 million in fines and restitution after a federal jury convicted the former state senator on 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
But then the government filed two successful appeals with the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
First, the government successfully appealed Judge Buckwalter's original jail sentence of 55 months, and the Third Circuit sent Fumo back to Judge Buckwalter for re-sentencing. On Nov. 14, 2011, Judge Buckwalter added 6 months to Fumo's jail sentence, and boosted the amount of restitution Fumo had to pay by $1.1 million.
All told, Fumo was sent to jail for 61 months, and ordered to pay the government $3.8 million.
Next, the feds appealed Judge Buckwalter's restitution order, seeking to extract from Fumo an additional $783,284. In February, that second appeal to a three-judge panel of Third Circuit Court of Appeals judges was also successful.
This time it was Fumo's chance to protest, and he lost.
In a decision reached this week, the Third Circuit judges dealt Fumo yet another defeat, denying a request from the defendant's lawyers to grant a rehearing before all 15 Third Circuit appeals judges on the matter of restitution.
So unless Fumo's defense lawyers petition the state Supreme Court for a hearing, and have a sudden reversal of fortune, the issue of how much more Fumo should pay in restitution will probably be decided at a future hearing presided over by Judge Buckwalter.
In a May 6 decision, Senior Judge Robert E. Cowen wrote that Fumo's request for a rehearing on restitution had been submitted to all 15 judges on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and that a majority of the judges had voted against the request.
The exact vote was not divulged. Instead, Cowen, writing on behalf of all 15 appeals court judges, wrote that the defense request for a rehearing "is hereby denied."
Fumo turned 70 on Wednesday at the federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky, where he has been held since 2009. Fumo's appeals lawyer, Peter Goldberger, declined comment on what his client's next move would be.
In their original decision on restitution, the Third Circuit appeals court judges made it clear that they wanted Judge Buckwalter to raise the amount of restitution imposed on Fumo, and to decrease the amount of restitution imposed on Ruth Arnao, Fumo's co-defendant.
At issue is $1.5 million stolen from the Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods [CABN], and how much Fumo and Arnao should each have to pay back to the government.
The appeals court judges wrote that that Judge Buckwalter would be abusing his discretion "yet again" if he failed to "order Fumo to pay all of the Citizens Alliance restitution" or "at the very least ... apportion Fumo's share of the restitution in such a way as to reflect the clearly disproportionate culpability and economic circumstances of the two co-defendants."
According to pre-senence reports, Fumo was worth $11.3 million, and Arnao, the former executive director of CABN, $1.5 million.
"Although clearly not destitute," Cowen said at the time, "Arnao was obviously much less well off than her multimillionaire co-defendant. He [Fumo] clearly possesses the means to pay the remaining share of the Citizens Alliance apportioned to Arnao by the district court" and could "do so immediately."
Fumo's lawyers, however, say Fumo is no longer worth $11.3 million, after paying $3.8 million in restitution, and nearly $4 million in legal fees. In addition, the IRS had served Fumo in prison with a bill for $2.9 million.
By Ralph Cipriano
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, sent a May 9th letter seeking an investigation to Anthony P. Sodroski, Disciplinary Counsel-in-Charge of the Disciplinary Board of the state Supreme Court.
In the letter, which he released to the press, Donohue stated, "What needs to be settled is whether someone from the office of D.A. Seth Williams will be receiving a referral fee for his work in connection with the 'Billy Doe' civil suit" against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia."
"You should know that we are pursuing other avenues of redress in this case," Donohue wrote Sodroski. "Never in my 20 years as president of the Catholic League have I seen a more egregious series of legal misconduct stemming from one case. All I am asking from you is cooperation in this particular matter."
A spokesman for the Disciplinary Board said it's office policy not to confirm or deny whether a complaint has been received.
The issue of whether someone in the district attorney's office may be receiving a referral fee for Billy Doe's civil suit against the archdiocese was first raised on Jan. 16th during the trial of Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero.
On cross-examination, Michael J. McGovern, attorney for Father Engelhardt, asked Billy Doe about who had lined him up with the civil attorney who filed the suit against the archdiocese.
"His name was given to us," Billy Doe replied.
"By another attorney?" McGovern asked.
"By the D.A.'s office," Billy Doe said.
"Who in the D.A.'s office gave you the name of a civil lawyer?" McGovern asked.
"I don't know," Doe replied. "It wasn't given to me."
"Who was it given to, your mom?"
"My parents," Doe said.
"Is it one of the prosecutors here?" McGovern asked.
"I cannot tell you," Doe replied. "It was not handed to me."
The D.A.'s office has repeatedly declined comment on the matter.
In a voice mail, Doe's civil lawyer said, "The D.A. had nothing to do" with the referral, and that it came from another lawyer who did not respond to a request for comment.
Samuel C. Stretton is a lawyer with offices in West Chester and Philadelphia who, over the past 30 years, has represented hundreds of lawyers in disciplinary proceedings; he also writes regularly on the subject of legal ethics.
"It's not wrong [for a district attorney] to suggest going to see a civil attorney," Stretton said. "It's not wrong to even suggest the names of multiple attorneys, Stretton said, although the best thing to do would have been for the district attorney to refer the victim to the local bar association.
"But if the district attorney got a referral fee that would be totally wrong," Stretton said. "Then you've got a vested interest in getting a conviction and you can no longer be the minister of justice that you're supposed to be."
The Catholic League, which bills itself as the "world's largest Catholic civil rights organization," has expressed an interest in the Engelhardt-Shero case, as well as the previous conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn, and the plea bargain of former priest Edward V. Avery.
All four men are in jail as the result of District Attorney Seth Williams's self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Avery is serving 2 1/2 to 5 years after pleading guilty on March 22, 2012 to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, and conspiring with Msgr. Lynn to endanger the welfare of a child. The victim of both crimes was Billy Doe.
Avery's guilty plea preceded the June 22, 2012 conviction of Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Doe. Lynn is now serving a 3 to 6 year sentence.
Engelhardt and Shero are in jail pending sentencing June 12. Engelhardt is facing a maximum sentence of 37 years; Shero, 57. Both men were convicted of sexually abusing Billy Doe.
"The Catholic League is not walking away from this issue," Donohue said in a statement released today. Donohue praised the "crackerjack reporting" on this blog, and said "the public has been kept in the dark on many aspects of what really happened to three Catholic priests and one Catholic layman. That is about to change. Stay tuned."
Kaboni Savage, the cocaine kingpin who authorities said launched a reign of terror in the Philadelphia drug underworld, was convicted of 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering today, including the 2004 firebombing arson in which two women and four children were killed.
Savage, 38, showed no emotion as the jury forewoman read the verdicts late this afternoon. The jury reading was interrupted briefly when Savage's older sister, Concetta, screamed out in dismay.
"Bullshit," she said after the guilty verdicts, one after another, began to mount. "Bullshit ... You're killing me ... That's my family." After resisting attempts to subdue her by other family members and federal marshals, she was led out of the courtroom.
"I love you, man," she said as she finally agreed to leave.
Savage, a former professional boxer, is already serving a 30-year sentence for a 2005 drug trafficking conviction. He could be sentenced to death in the current case. A penalty phase of the trial, before the same jury, is set to begin on May 20.
Savage, his sister Kidada, 30, and co-defendant Steven Northington, 41, were convicted of murder in aid of racketeering. Robert Merritt, 31, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, but acquitted of six murder counts.
Savage and Northington face potential death sentences and will be the defendants in the penalty phase trial. Kidada could be sentenced to life.
The verdicts were announced to a packed courtroom that included dozens of federal officials. U.S. marshals lined the courtroom and stood behind each defendant. During the reading of the verdicts, which took about 20 minutes, Kidada Savage periodically put her head down on the table or had her hands clasped in front of her as she rested her forehead on them.
She and her brother exchanged glances and nods, but appeared resigned to the outcome once the forewoman had read guilty verdicts to the initial racketeering conspiracy charge. The jury of nine women and three men, selected anonymously, had spent five days deliberating. They got the case late last Monday afternoon.
Word that a verdict had been reached spread through the eighth floor of the federal courthouse shortly after 3 p.m. U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick took the verdict at 3:45. The jury sat solemnly at the forewoman announced the verdicts to each count. The jurors and most of the spectators sat transfixed during Concetta Savage's outburst, but the process of reading the verdicts continued once she was removed from the courtroom.
Christian Hoey, Savage's court-appointed lawyer, declined to comment because of the pending death penalty hearing. The verdicts were announced at 3:45 p.m., capping a week of deliberations by the jury which had heard testimony for 13 weeks in the high profile case.
Federal prosecutors also declined to comment.
Savage was described by prosecutors as a drug kingpin who used murder to silence witnesses and to retaliate against associates who were cooperating against him. Eight of the 12 murders in the case were tied to witness intimidation.
All four defendants were convicted of racketeering conspiracy charges, but the jury found Merritt not guilty of six separate murder charges tied to the firebombing. Merritt is already serving a 15-year sentence for an unrelated drug conviction.
"It would seem like an inconsistent verdict," Will Spade, one of Merritt's two court-appointed lawyers, said of the jury verdict. Merritt was only linked to the firebombing in the indictment and the jury found him not guilty of each of the six homicides that resulted from that arson.
But it nevertheless found him guilty to racketeering conspiracy tied to the firebombing as part of the Savage drug organization.
There was little question about any of the other verdicts.
Kaboni Savage faced 16 criminal counts, including racketeering conspiracy, 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering and related arson and witness retaliation counts. He was found guilty of all 16.
Kidada Savage, who authorities said set the firebombing in motion, as charged with nine counts and was found guilty of all nine. Northington, described as a drug dealer and enforcer for the Savage organization, was charged with racketeering conspiracy and two murder in aid of racketeering counts. He was convicted of all three.
Northington was the only defendant not charged in the firebombing. He was convicted of participating in the murders of Tybius Flowers and Barry Parker, two rival drug dealers killed on Kaboni Savage's orders.
Flowers was killed just days before he was to testify against Savage in a murder case in Common Pleas Court. The Flowers murder in 2004 was ordered by Savage from prison as he awaited trial, authorities said, and was carried out by Northington.
Targeted in a 10-year FBI investigation, Savage was described as "pure evil" by one high ranking Philadelphia Police official and as head of one of the most violent drug gangs in the Philadelphia underworld by a top federal prosecutor.
The case was built around the testimony of nearly a dozen former associates and on nearly 300 secretly recorded conversations in which Savage discussed murdering witnesses and their families. (Several of those tapes can be listened to on bigtrial.net.)
The most egregious example of witness intimidation/retaliation, authorities said, was the firebombing of the North Sixth Street row house of Marcella Coleman, the mother of Eugene Coleman. Eugene Coleman was a Savage associate who had began cooperating with authorities.
Coleman testified for the government in the 2005 drug trafficking trial and in the current case. The jury also heard from Lamont Lewis,, 37, a hitman and drug dealer who said he carried out the firebombing of the Coleman home on orders from Savage who was in prison at the time.
Those orders were relayed through Kidada Savage, he said.
Lewis said he recruited his cousin, Merritt, to help and that both he and Merritt threw gas cans into the house in the early morning hours of Oct. 9, 2004. Marcella Coleman, her step-daughter and four children ranging in age from 15 months to 15 years, died in the blaze. The children included Eugene Coleman's infant son.
Members of both Coleman's family and Merritt's family -- many of whom had attended every day of the trial -- were present for the verdicts. None wished to comment. The Merritt family routinely joined hands in prayer in the eighth floor hallway during the trial.
Lewis testified that neither he nor Merritt knew there were children in the home. He said when he confronted Kidada Savage, her response was "fuck'em."
Among the tapes played for the jury were conversations, secretly picked up in Kaboni Savage's prison cell, in which he is heard cackling and laughing about the arson and telling another inmate that Coleman, who attended the funerals, should have been given some "barbecue sauce" to pour on those "burnt bitches."
More tapes and more witness testimony are expected during the penalty phase when prosecutors argue that there are enough aggravating circumstances to justify the death penalty in the case. The jury must decide whether to sentence Savage and Northington to death or to life in prison.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.
By Ralph Cipriano
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has called for an investigation of the local district attorney's office. He wants to know if any prosecutor had a financial stake in the criminal convictions of three priests and a former Catholic school teacher.
In response, the disciplinary board of the state Supreme Court has assigned disciplinary counsel Donna M. Snyder to investigate.
Meanwhile, the National Catholic Reporter, the paper that led the way in exposing the national scandal of clerical sex abuse, has run an editorial questioning the credibility of the district attorney's star witness.
Here's what NCR had to say about the witness responsible for putting three priests and a former teacher in jail: "The discrepancies between Billy Doe's accounts to the archdiocese and later to the grand jury are not minor, they are utterly different versions of reality."
The bottom line of the NCR editorial: "Years of elaborate deceptions by Catholic leaders are hardly avenged if the response is more cunning deception by civil society." That's why NCR labeled the D.A.'s convictions, which may have relied on a phony plea bargain, "a shallow victory." The newspaper called on Seth Williams to answer the questions originally posed by this blog months ago, questions that the D.A. continues to stonewall.
So we know where a couple of national institutions stand on the local district attorney's self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
That leaves a puzzling question about two other local institutions.
There's a prominent leader of a local Catholic organization who continues to publicly remain silent about the convictions of the three priests and the school teacher: Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
We're also wondering why The Philadelphia Inquirer, the city's paper of record, is snoozing through yet another news cycle involving the district attorney's flawed investigation, suspect star witness, and error-filled grand jury report.
Thanks to another ploy by the Catholic League, the slumber should end on Monday.
Chaput, as he has in the past, declined to talk to bigtrial.net.
"While we appreciate the opportunity, the Archbishop will not be commenting on those convictions," Kenneth A. Gavin, the archdiocese's director of communications, wrote in an May 14 email.
Back on March 23, I sent the archbishop an email outlining the case that the credibility of Billy Doe might be lacking. The next day, Francis X. Maier, special assistant to the archbishop, responded in an email by saying that Chaput was "grateful for the information. As was the case in Denver, the archbishop is committed to respecting and cooperating fully with law enforcement and the courts."
"Nonetheless, the archdiocese does have concerns about what happened in these trials," Maier wrote. "The archdiocese is doing everything appropriate within the criminal and civil legal systems to seek a just resolution for all involved, with the guidance of good legal counsel ... I hope this helps. Have a blessed Holy Week."
I'll say this about the archdiocese; they may stiff you, but they sure are polite. When you're getting stonewalled by the district attorney's office, his spokesperson doesn't even bother to respond. The end result, however, remains the same -- you wind up with no answers.
Donohue, the outspoken president of the Catholic League, said Chaput knew the Catholic League was going to get involved in the controversy over the local D.A.'s prosecution of the archdiocese.
"I didn't confer with him," Donohue said of Chaput, "I just told him, after we got together. I have been corresponding with him for years on all sorts of things -- he gets back faster than any bishop I've ever dealt with -- and his terseness on this issue speaks volumes. I'm sure he would love to talk, but simply can't."
Archbishop Chaput has visited Msgr. Lynn in jail at least twice. Last July, Chaput stopped by the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia, to see Lynn, who at the time, was in protective custody. The archbishop met with Lynn for 90 minutes, but what they talked about was not divulged.
"Their conversation was private," Gavin, a spokesman for the archbishop, said at the time.
Chaput is not known to have any contact with Father Charles Engelhardt, one of the convicted priests. That makes sense because Engelhardt is a member of an independent order, the oblates of St. Francis, and reports to a different boss.
Chaput, however, has met with Father James J. Brennan, the only defendant in the archdiocese prosecution to beat the rap. A jury hung on two charges last year against Father Brennan, including an 11-1 split for acquittal on the main charge against the priest, of attempted rape. Father Brennan is scheduled to be retried Oct. 21.
Brennan's lawyer, however, William J. Brennan, no relation, was not happy with how the archbishop has treated his client.
The archdiocese shelled out at least $75,000 a week for four lawyers to defend Msgr. Lynn during a trial that lasted 13 weeks, which would amount to $975,000 in legal fees. But the archdiocese refused to contribute a nickel toward Father Brennan's defense, his lawyer said.
On the eve of trial, William Brennan says, he asked a lawyer who represents the archdiocese to get the archbishop to simply call Father Brennan on the eve of trial and "wish him well."
Even though Father Brennan is "a fully ordained Roman Catholic priest who looks to the bishop as his spiritual father," William Brennan said, "that request was denied."
William Brennan says he also doesn't understand why anyone from the archdiocese never inquired about either Brennan's perspective on last year's trial. If not out of compassion, how about from a "pragmatic standpoint," William Brennan said, because the archdiocese remains liable in a civil suit filed by Father Brennan's accuser, Mark Bukowski.
The archdiocese is treating another one of his clients the same way, William Brennan said. He was speaking of Father Andrew McCormack, a suspended priest accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 1997.
By Ralph Cipriano
Bill Donhoue, president of the Catholic League, ripped The Philadelphia Inquirer today for not printing a $58,000 ad that would have called attention to the local district attorney's prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Donohue also ripped the Inky's news coverage.
"There are two scandals going on in Philadelphia, and both involve injustices done to the Catholic Church," Donohue said. "One is legal, and the other is journalistic."
"The legal scandal involves the prosecution of three Catholic priests, and one Catholic layman, in a case so incredible that it would be turned down as too fictional a script for a TV crime show," Donohue wrote. "The other involves the Philadelphia Inquirer's decision to keep the public in the dark about this case."
In a press release posted on the league's site, Donohue said the Inky refused to tell him why they decided not to run the ad.
"The statement that I wrote was submitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 14, 2013; it was to run as a two-page ad on May 20," Donohue wrote. "On May 15, were were told that a decision was made by those 'at the top' not to run it; when we asked for an explanation, were told there would be none."
"By turning down the ad, the newspaper forfeited $58,000, not an insignificant sub, especially for a paper that filed for bankruptcy in 2009," Donohue wrote. "It suggests that those 'at the top' would rather forego the money before every disseminating a defense about the way three priests, and one Catholic layman, were treated in court."
A spokesperson for the newspaper could not be reached.
"One of the reasons why these Catholic men were treated so unjustly is the failure of the Philadelphia media, led by the Inquirer, to raise serious questions about what happened," Donohue wrote.
Last week, William K. Marimow, editor of the Inquirer, did not respond to a request for comment.
Donohue said the Inky hadn't heard the last of the Catholic League, or the controversy over the district attorney's prosecution of the archdiocese.
"The Inquirer can stop us from running this statement as an ad in its newspaper, but it cannot stop us from blanketing the print and electronic media in Philadelphia and Harrisburg," Donohue said. "Nor can it stop us from getting it into the hands of every parish in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. We are also going national with this story."
The headline of the proposed ad was, "Four Catholic Men Framed." In the text of the two-page ad, Donohue called the district attorney's prosecution of the church "one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice ever witnessed."
In the ad, Donohue wrote that "three Catholic priests, and one Catholic layman, have been railroaded by an ambitious D.A. That the media have failed to report fully and accurately on this story is also a disgrace."
Donohue also says in the ad that he has called for a state investigation of the district attorney's office:
“Billy Doe” says it was the D.A.’s office that secured a civil attorney for him to sue the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. If so, it raises serious questions about an attorney referenced by the D.A.’s office who stands to make millions if his client prevails. I have asked the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to launch an investigation.
By George Anastasia
Death by lethal injection or life in a "concrete box."
That's what the future holds for Kaboni Savage, his lawyer told a federal jury today at the start of the capital punishment phase of Savage's racketeering-murder trial.
In a low-key, but pointed opening statement, the lawyer, William Purpura, asked the jury to choose the box -- the concrete prison cell where Savage will spend the rest of his life.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer, on the other hand, asked the jury to sentence Savage, 38, to death for orchestrating a series of murders, including one of the "most heinous crimes" ever committed in the Philadelphia underworld, a firebombing in which six innocent people -- two women and four children -- were killed.
Capital punishment in federal cases, Troyer told the jury, is reserved for the most heinous crimes and the worst offenders.
"This is that case," the prosecutor said.
The anonymously chosen jury, which convicted Savage and three co-defendants of racketeering conspiracy and related murder charges last week, began the process of determining whether Savage will live on die in the same 8th floor courtroom where they heard testimony for more than 13 weeks.
The penalty phase of the trial is expected to last for about two more weeks. First the jury will hear evidence and testimony on the capital punishment issue as it relates to Savage. Then, in a second hearing, the jury will be asked to determine life or death for Stephen Northington, 41, a Savage hit man convicted of two other murders during the trial.
Savage's sister, Kidada, 30, faces life in prison after being convicted of conspiracy and murder-in-aid-of-racketeering charges tied to the firebombing. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in her case.
Robert Merritt, 32, could also be sentenced to life on racketeering conspiracy charges. The jury found him not guilty, however, of six murder counts tied to the firebombing, thus negating the need for a penalty phase hearing for him.
Dressed in a green prison jump suit, Savage said little during the first day of his life or death hearing. He sat for most of the day with his elbow propped on the defense table, his head resting on his closed fist. Occasionally he took some notes or conferred with Purpura and Christian Hoey, the two court-appointed lawyers who represented him.
The former professional boxer is already serving a 30-year sentence for a 2005 conviction for drug trafficking. The only two options the jury has in the current case is life without parole or the death sentence.
"Kaboni Savage will never set foot out of a maximum security prison," Purpura told the jury, predicting that if sentenced to life he would be returned to the maximum security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, where he was serving his 30-year term.
There, Purpura said, he will be housed in solitary confinement in a concrete cell where he will take all his meals and where he will have no interaction with any other inmates. He will be allowed out briefly for exercise in an area Purpura described as a "dog run" and will be permitted one phone call a month.
"It's a terrible life," Purpura said, but it's the best option Savage has.
The only issue, Purpura said, is whether Savage lives out the rest of his life in that 8-by-10 foot concrete box "until his Maker calls," or whether he dies at the hands of a federal executioner.
Purpura said there was no justification for the violence that the jury heard about during the trial, but he urged the panel to end the "circle of violence" and spare Savage's life. He said the defense will attempt to present "the whole picture" of who Savage was, offering mitigating factors that would justify rejection the death sentence that prosecutors were seeking.
That picture, which will come from testimony offered by neighbors and family members, will include an account of how Savage had to assume responsibility for his mother and two sisters after his father died of lung cancer when Savage was just 13 years old.
At that point, Purpura said, he left school and headed for the drug underworld that was so much a part of the North Philadelphia neighborhood where he lived.
"It's not an excuse," Purpura said. "There's nothing to justify the actions you heard about ... But it will give you a better picture of Kaboni Savage."
Troyer argued, however, that the 13-week trial presented the jury with all it needed to vote for the death sentence. Under federal law, a jury must unanimously decide that a death penalty if warranted and must then vote unanimously to impose it.
The penalty phase hearing, the prosecutor said, will include some additional evidence and also testimony from the family members of Savage's victims.
Of the 12 murders, eight were tied to witness intimidation, including the firebombing in which the family of Eugene Coleman, an associate who had begun cooperating with authorities, was killed. Those were all aggravating factors that support a death sentence, Troyer said.
"They were killed," Troyer said. "Slaughtered by Kaboni Savage only because they were related to Eugene Coleman."
As they had during the trial, the prosecution showed pictures of the arson victims: Coleman's mother, Marcella; his step-sister Tamika Nash, his 15-month old son, two nephews, age 12 and 15, and a niece, age 10.
All six perished in an inferno that engulfed their North Sixth Street home in the early morning hours of Oct. 9, 2004. Savage was convicted of ordering the firebombing from his prison cell, a point that Troyer underlined in his opening.
A jail cell is not enough to keep Savage was wreaking havoc, he said. Only a death sentence will stop him. Troyer backed up that argument with references to several tapes played for the jury during the trial, secretly recorded conversations from Savage's prison cell.
On those tapes he ranted about killing "rats" and their families; joked about the firebombing, and promised to kill even more children and family members of cooperators. (Several of those tapes can be heard on bigtrial.net.)
"I'm gonna kill everything you love," Troyer quoted Savage in a conversation in which he threatened another former associate he suspected had turned government witness.
On others, he promised to continue to murder "til the day I day," telling an associate, "the fight don't stop til the casket drops."
Troyer urged the jury to deliver a sentence that would put Savage in that casket sooner rather than later.
It was a sentence, he said, "that Kaboni Savage has earned."
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigrtrial.net.
By George Anastasia
The words were spoken in a soft and loving voice.
There was none of the arrogance or anger that the jury had heard in so many of his other conversations. This was Kaboni Savage, loving father, talking by phone to his four-year-old daughter Siani.
"I love you," he said, a lilt in his voice. "I miss you. I can't wait to see you."
The little girl, who had not seen her father in months, responded in kind. This was in September 2004. Savage had been arrested in April of that year.
He's been in jail ever since.
During the 13-week racketeering-murder trial that ended earlier this month with his conviction, prosecutors played dozens of tapes in which Savage, 38, ranted and raged against former associates who had begun cooperating with the government, promising to kill them and their families. After six people, including four children, died when the home of a witness was firebombed on his orders, Savage was heard cackling, laughing and boasting about the inferno that prosecutors said had "cooked" the victims alive.
In all, Savage was convicted of 12 murders. Eight have been linked to witness intimidation. Among the bloody and homicidal comments that have echoed around the courtroom, there was his succinct underworld philosophy: "No fuckin' witness, no crime."
But that wasn't the side of Kaboni Savage that his lawyers wanted to present to the jury last week while trying to save his life. Through the testimony of a series of witnesses and the playing of selected tapes they offered what they hope will be mitigating factors that will convince at least one of the jurors that life without parole rather than death by lethal injection is a justifiable and warranted sentence for the convicted murderer.
Kaboni Savage, loving father, laughing, joking and talking sweetly with his then four-year-old daughter, that's who the defense wanted the jury to hear.
"We want you to see the whole picture of Kaboni Savage," defense attorney William Purpura had told the jury.
The penalty phase hearing is expected to conclude tomorrow. Jury deliberations likely will begin Wednesday following closing arguments and a charge by Judge R. Barclay Surrick on the legal issues involved. Under federal law, the jury must unanimously decide that a death sentence is warranted and then must unanimously agree that it should be imposed.
The other option is life with no parole. Savage is already serving a 30-year sentence following a conviction in 2005 for drug trafficking. He has been described as one of the biggest and most violent cocaine kingpins in North Philadelphia. "Pure evil," said a high ranking Philadelphia police official when Savage was charged in the current case.
In what was clearly an uphill battle, his court-appointed attorneys, Purpura and Christian Hoey, called nearly a dozen witnesses last week, including prison experts and legal scholars. Their testimony was aimed at blunting some of the sharper edges presented by the prosecution.
Savage, for example, would if sentenced to life probably spent the rest of his days in the maximum security unit of the super-max federal prison in Florence, Colorado, the so-called Alcatraz of the Rockies. The chances of him trying to direct revenge against witnesses and their families from that facility is highly unlikely, indeed, nearly impossible, according to that expert testimony.
The defense also offered testimony on the "culture" of snitching in urban America, trying to point out that Savage was not a trail-blazer in his rants against cooperators, but was merely echoing the common perception of that snitches will say whatever the prosecution wants to hear in order to cut a better deal for themselves.
Defense witnesses included Alexandra Natapoff, a lawyer and scholar and the author of "Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice."
But it was Kaboni Savage's own words that the defense attorneys hoped would have the greatest impact on death penalty deliberations.
Ironically, they used some of the same secretly recorded conversations that were part of the FBI's 10-year investigation to offer the jury a more humane defendant. Key elements were Savage's relationship with his daughter and with other young members of his extended family.
"They have a bond with each other that is unbreakable," said Crystal Copeland, Siani's mother and Savage's girlfriend of nearly 18 years. The couple, she said from the witness stand, were living together, planning to get married and hoping for other children when he was arrested in 2004.
Copeland, who has two masters degrees in education and works for the Philadelphia school district, testified as a defense witness during the trial and again last week during the penalty phase. She described Kaboni Savage as a "kind and caring" father and a loving companion who made her laugh.
She said her daughter, now 13, misses her father.
"He has been her hero," she said, her voice cracking. "It's been difficult for her not having him around."
Copeland, who maintained her composure and exuded self-confidence during her first appearance on the stand during the trial, broke down as she testified about her daughter during the penalty phase of the case.
"She doesn't want to function without him," she said, adding that Savage has always emphasized in his phone calls and letters the need for a good education. Her daughter, she said, is an A-student.
"Her goal in life is to make him proud," she said between sobs.
The last conversation with jury heard between Kaboni and Siani Savage was recorded on Sept. 30, 2004.
Again, Savage's voice was soft, almost melodious, as he spoke to his daughter.
"You can't paint your toe nails and then put your socks on," he said with a laugh as Siani could be heard giggling.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you too," the little voice replied.
"I miss you."
"I miss you, too."
Savage has two daughters and a son by three different women, according to testimony. Siani is the youngest. She is friendly with her half-sister and half-brother, her mother said. Savage had another daughter, Ciara, who was killed in 2009 when she was caught in a cross-fire between drug gangs in York, Pa. She was nine years old at the time.
The jury also heard from Yusef Kaboni Savage, the 19-year-old son of Conchetta Savage, the defendant's older sister. While Kaboni Savage is Yusef's uncle, the teenager said he was more like a father.
In fact, the Penn State University student said he refers to Kaboni Savage as "dad." While he has been unable to visit him in prison because visits are restricted to biological children, Yusef Savage said he and his uncle have corresponded and that his uncle has always encouraged him to do well in school and to further his education.
During his time of the witness stand the defense introduced a certificate that Yusef had obtained for his uncle while he was in grammar school. Yusef testified that when he was nine he wrote an essay about his uncle, describing him as the person who had had the greatest positive impact on his life. Among other things, he said, his uncle taught him to read the newspaper when he was just five years old and encouraged him in sports and in school.
The certificate, with large letters declaring CONGRATULATIONS, was introduced as evidence and as another possible mitigating factor.
Prosecutors, as expected, were low-key in their cross-examination of Crystal Copeland and Yusef Savage. But they did manage to make a potentially devastating point with the jury.
Kaboni Savage's last phone call with his daughter came just nine days before the firebombing in which the family of Eugene Coleman was killed. The victims including Coleman's mother, his step-sister, his 15-month old son, two nephews, aged 15 and 12, and a niece, age 10.
Coleman, a Savage associate who had begun cooperating, was in jail at the time. His family was targeted, prosecutors said, in retaliation.
A month after that arson, according to another tape played for the jury, Kaboni Savage joked about the fire and said authorities should have provided Coleman with "barbecue sauce" to pour on those "burnt bitches" when he attended their funerals.
The certificate obtained by Yusef Savage was dated Dec. 8, 2004, two months after the arson.
The next day, according to another tape recorded conversations, Savage was in prison ranting about cooperators, vowing to kill more of their children.
"Their kids gonna pay for making my kids cry," he said. "I want to smack one of their four-year-old sons in he head with a bat...Straight up. I have dreams about killing theirs kids...Killing their kids. Cutting their kids' heads off."
Whether Kaboni Savage is sentenced to death or life in prison may depend on whether any of the jurors believe the loving comments of a gentle father trump the rants and raves of a homicidal drug kingpin. Savage's own words were used to convict him and now those same words could determine whether he lives or dies.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigrtrial.net.
About these tapes: