“Federal prosecutors won’t seek death penalty for Kodiak Coast Guard killings”

August 7, 2013

Alaska Dispatch on August 6, 2013 released the following:

By Laurel Andrews

“Prosecutors announced Monday that they will not seek the death penalty against James Michael Wells, charged with murdering two men on the Kodiak Coast Guard base in April 2012.

The murders stunned the island of Kodiak – a community of about 6,000 people living on the second-largest island in the U.S. — and the case continued with no arrests made for 10 months after the killings.

Richard Belisle and James Hopkins were found dead April 12, 2012, shortly after their shift began at 7 a.m. at the “rigger shop,” where they worked alongside Wells repairing antenna at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak.

U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler said in February that Alaska State Troopers, the FBI, and the U.S. Coast Guard investigative service considered the investigation “a top priority,” and that Wells’ indictment in February was the culmination of their efforts.

Wells was charged with four counts of premeditated murder in the killing of U.S. Coast Guard Electronics Technician First Class Hopkins and U.S. Coast Guard civilian employee Belisle — and six counts total. The first two counts charge him with murder in the first degree on federal property. Two others charge him with murder of an officer or employee of the United States. The final two charge him with possession and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Wells pleaded not guilty to the February murders.

The question of whether prosecutors would seek the death penalty remained up in the air in late July, when Wells’ defense attorney Rich Curtner filed a motion that made reference to the possibility of the death penalty being sought in the case.

The death penalty was abolished in Alaska in 1957, two years before the then-U.S. territory became a state. But prosecutors still can seek the death penalty for cases tried in federal court.

In March, Loeffler told Alaska Dispatch there’s been “no case that I’m aware of in the last 25 years where the death penalty was actually sought at trial” in Alaska.

However, the death penalty was approved, and would have been sought, by prosecutors in the high-profile case against Joshua Wade, an Anchorage man convicted of killing his neighbor, nurse Mindy Schloss, in 2007. Because the case was tried in federal court and because the charges also involved a carjacking, Wade was eligible for the death penalty. But eventually, Wade cut a deal in which he pleaded guilty to the murder, and federal prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty.

Loeffler said in March that she would make a recommendation to the U.S. Attorney General’s Capital Review Committee in Washington, D.C., on whether to pursue the death penalty, but ultimately the decision lies with the U.S. Attorney General.

Monday’s notice states simply that the U.S. District Attorney’s office will not be pursuing the death penalty in the case.

Neither Wells’ defense attorney nor the U.S. District Attorney’s office were available for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

Well’s trial is slated for February 2014.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Unsealed Federal Criminal Indictment Alleges that 13 Alleged Members of the Hankton Organization Committed Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering and Other Serious Federal Crimes

October 20, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on October 19, 2012 released the following:

“NEW ORLEANS, LA— Walter Porter, 37, a/k/a “Urkel” a/k/a “Moonie”; Nakia Hankton, 34; Shirley Hankton, 58, ; Telly Hankton, 36, a/k/a “Third” a/k/a “Wild”; Thomas Hankton, 36, a/k/a “Squirt”; Troy Hankton, 28; George Jackson, 38, a/k/a “Black”; Derrick Smothers, 34, a/k/a “Dump”; Andre Hankton, 35; Kevin Jackson, 39; Netthany Schexnayder, 33; Sana Johnson, 37; and Terrell Smothers, 36, all of New Orleans, Louisiana, were charged in a 22-count superseding indictment by a federal [g]rand jury on Thursday October 18, 2012, announced Jim Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana; Michael Anderson, FBI Special Agent in Charge for the New Orleans Division; and Phil Durham, ATF Special Agent in Charge; along with Jimmy Fox III, DEA Special Agent in Charge; Genny May, United States Marshal, Eastern District of Louisiana; Leon Cannizzaro, Orleans Parish District Attorney; and Ronal Serpas, NOPD Superintendent.

The superseding indictment was unsealed today as most of the defendants were taken into custody by federal agents or were already in custody on related matters. Presently there are no defendants who are considered to be fugitives.

According to the superseding indictment, members of this organization and their associates ran a violent drug ring in and around the city of New Orleans dating back to 1996. During the course of this organization’s existence, its members and associates murdered rival drug dealers, intimidated witnesses, attempted to obstruct the state criminal justice system by having associates provide false alibi testimony in state court, and murdered a witness’ family member in an effort to obstruct justice.

Specifically, Andre Hankton, Telly Hankton, Kevin Jackson, Walter Porter, and Thomas Hankton are all charged in specific murders and could potentially face the death penalty for the murders of Darnell Stewart, Jesse Reed, Hasan Williams, and Curtis Matthews (counts five, six, eight, nine, 10, 11, 15, and 16). No decision concerning this issue has been made at this time. As in all possible capital cases, this case must be reviewed according to a strict protocol to determine whether the Department of Justice will seek the death penalty.

Speaking to today’s unsealed indictment, U.S. Attorney Letten stated:

“Today, as the result of the outstanding work of the men and women of federal enforcement and our partners in the New Orleans Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office, yet another powerful blow has been made against an organization whose members are alleged to have committed murder and violence against our community. My deepest gratitude goes to the dedicated members of our own office, together with special agents of the FBI and ATF, along with DEA and the Marshals Service.”

“Our very special thanks go out to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, and their tremendous team for their commitment, hardwork, professionalism, and partnership. Without NOPD’s investigative work, and the District Attorney’s indispensable charging groundwork, partnership, and seamless cooperation, the full extent of this indictment would not have been achieved.”

Mike Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, added:

“This investigation is a clear reflection of the FBI’s enhanced commitment to address localized violent street gangs, in partnership with our federal, state, and local law enforcement counterparts. Accordingly, such criminal activity will remain a top investigative priority.”

Phil Durham, Special Agent in Charge of ATF, stated:

“ATF’s primary goal is to work along side our other law enforcement partners to reduce the number of homicides and other violent crimes committed with firearms. This joint effort clearly illustrate our commitment of the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to making our communities safer.”

U.S. Attorney Letten reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

No further information is available at this time.

This indictment is the culmination of a long federal grand jury investigation that was conducted with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the United States Marshals Service; the New Orleans Police Department; the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office; and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Judge won’t bar evidence of other crimes allegedly committed by defendant in death-penalty case

June 15, 2012

Chicago Tribune on June 15, 2012 released the following:

“Prosecutors plan to connect man charged with killing Navy officer to rape in Virginia, murders in Lake County

By Dan Hinkel

A federal judge has denied defense lawyers’ efforts to bar potentially damaging evidence at the sentencing phase of the death penalty case against Jorge Torrez, the former Lake County man charged last month with murdering two young girls in Zion in 2005.

Federal prosecutors plan to seek Torrez’s execution if he is convicted of killing 20-year-old Navy petty officer Amanda Snell in 2009 on the Virginia military base where they both lived. To aid that push, prosecutors plan to offer evidence that Torrez raped a woman in Virginia in 2010 and killed Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9, seven years ago in Illinois.

Jerry Hobbs, Laura’s father, had confessed to the killings and spent five years in jail before DNA pointed to Torrez, according to court records. Hobbs was freed in August 2010, but nearly two more years passed before Lake County prosecutors tacitly acknowledged his confession was false when they charged Torrez with the crime last month.

Torrez, 23, is serving five life sentences for a series of attacks on women in Virginia, including the rape.

In the federal case, Torrez’s lawyers had asked the judge to bar prosecutors from using his convictions in those attacks as “aggravating factors” at sentencing, arguing that the attacks happened after the petty officer’s murder. His lawyers also asked the judge to strike other factors proposed by prosecutors, which range from the charge that he killed the Zion girls to contentions that he viewed violent pornography and tied up a female friend with a dog leash.

U.S. Judge Liam O’Grady put off ruling conclusively on whether he will allow the Zion killings and other alleged acts to be used as factors until after a hearing in December, though he denied the defense lawyers’ call to have the factors immediately stricken.

The judge denied Torrez’s lawyers’ attempt to block prosecutors from using Torrez’s convictions in the attacks in Virginia as factors at sentencing. O’Grady cited case law in ruling that prosecutors seeking to introduce aggravating factors can use crimes committed after the alleged crime that is the basis for the death penalty case.

Those aggravating factors are central to death penalty cases because of case law dictating that murder, absent circumstances adding to the horrific nature of the crime, does not justify execution, said David Bruck, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an expert on the death penalty.

Even if a defendant has not been convicted of a crime — as Torrez has not been convicted of the Zion murders — prosecutors often can still introduce evidence of the alleged criminal act during the sentencing phase, Bruck said.

Federal authorities have only rarely executed defendants. In the past 35 years, federal courts have executed three men, one of whom was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Lake County authorities have said they plan to try Torrez in the Zion killings, though a spokesman for federal prosecutors said the death penalty trial will go forward first.

A lawyer for Torrez declined to comment.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.