Murder Inc Trial Brief/Day 1: Prosecution Witness Fumbles Testimony, Admits He'd "Lie" On Stand
In an attempt to establish a connection between convicted drug lord Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff and Murder Inc. CEO Irv Lorenzo (aka Irv Gotti), Prosecutor Sean Haran called their star witness Phillip Banks to the stand. Banks, who has two felony convictions to his name, is currently incarcerated on pending racketeering charges. He faces a sentence of life in prison.
When Banks was detained on his recent charges in February 2005, he reportedly told the police that he was willing to do anything to avoid going back to prison. He then began to have numerous conversations with federal agents about McGriff.
While he had no problem going into great detail about his former boss McGriff, at that time he stated that the only thing he knew about Lorenzo was that he was intern for Def Jam Records. According to defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt, it wasn't until agents told Banks in October that if he "pleased the prosecution, they would see what they could do" that Banks suddenly began to provide details about Lorenzo.
Lefcourt then asked Banks if his story was still "evolving." Banks simply replied, "Yeah." Ja Rule found that to be quite amusing. However, Banks' sudden surge of honesty didn't stop there. When asked by the defense if he would lie about Lorenzo in order to get released from jail, Banks responded "yes."
Throughout his testimony, Banks appeared to be visibly shaken. He constantly looked down and was repeatedly asked to speak up. According to Banks, they made as much as $100,000 a day during a five-year span in the mid 80's. "That's just the way it was," he stated. "He [McGriff] was the boss and I was right under him". At one point, Banks testified to attempting to kill an ex-girlfriend of Supreme's after she refused to abort his baby.
Banks initially testified that he first met Lorenzo in 1994. He stated that on two occasions he gave the then aspiring music mogul money on behalf of McGriff. However, when Lefcourt cross-examined Banks, he said that he met Lorenzo when he was at Def Jam Records. The defense then told the court that Lorenzo did not join the label until 1997; three years after Banks said he met him.
Banks then retracted his statement, saying he could be wrong about where Lorenzo was employed at the time because he was not that familiar with the music business at the time.
Lefcourt then began discrediting Banks' other statements. When asked if he was testifying only to please the prosecution, Banks replied, "No, I just want to please me... Honestly, I don't trust either one of y'all."
Another hole was poked in the prosecution's theory when Banks said that McGriff was broke when he was released from prison in 2004. It was pointed out that since Banks was imprisoned from 1997 to 2004 and he admitted that hadn't spoken to Supreme since 1997, that his testimony was questionable. The defense summarized that Banks was working with information that was minimally eight years old.
The prosecution also called a local Maryland cabdriver Jesus "Rico" Romano. Romano testified to providing transportation for McGriff from Maryland to New York at a rate of $150 per trip, knowingly transporting drugs and drug money for McGriff's Supreme Team. On one occasion he even recalls driving McGriff from Maryland straight to Murder Inc headquarters with a black bag full of money in the back seat of the car.
Earlier in the day, both the prosecution and defense presented their opening arguments while Ja Rule, Ashanti, friends and other family members of the Lorenzos looked on.
Meanwhile, SOHH.com has learned that the pillars of the prosecution's case are witnesses Donell Nichols and Dalu. Nichols is said by the prosecution to be a former Murder Inc employee who handled cash transactions for the label, while Dalu was an associate of McGriff's.
However, according to SOHH sources, Nichols was never a paid employee at Murder Inc. -- he was an intern -- and Dalu's only real connection is to Supreme, not Lorenzo brothers.
"It's going to hurt some people to see Dalu testify not only against the Lorenzos but mostly against 'Preme," said one source. "Many in the hood doubt he'll have the nerve to do it when the time comes. Prior to his latest arrest he was selling faux crack cocaine in the hood."
Our sources also tell us that like many informants, Dalu has a long criminal record, including a conviction for perjury.
Nichols is expected to take the stand today.