The first of five trials in the federal indictment of multistate cocaine ring the Black Mafia Family is scheduled to begin July 23 -- but for the alleged co-leaders of the storied crew, a day in court could still be weeks or even months away.
The brothers Demetrius "Big Meech" and Terry "Southwest T" Flenory, along with seven of their 39 co-defendants, were slated for an Aug. 6 trial. However, some of the government's evidence has only recently been divulged to the defense – including 216 days' worth of wiretapped phone calls that comprise as many as 10,000 conversations – and those close to the case believe the August trial date will be pushed back.
The trials will take place in Detroit, where Meech and Southwest T allegedly birthed the Black Mafia Family before moving in the late '90s to Atlanta and L.A., respectively. The brothers are believed to have distributed $270 million in cocaine imported from Mexico in less than two decades.
Prosecutors claim that Atlanta, under Meech's helm, was a central BMF hub. Meech – a flashy hip-hop entrepreneur whose name is oft-invoked in tracks by Atlanta rappers such as Young Jeezy – was the subject of a three-part series published in CL in late 2006.
The Flenory brothers were arrested in October 2005 and indicted for running a continuing criminal enterprise, a charge that can carry a life sentence.
Last month, Atlanta-based attorney Drew Findling filed a motion requesting a separate trial for Meech. The document states that a 2004 split between the brothers would jeopardize Meech's right to a fair trial. Nine days later, U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn denied the motion.
Now, after spending nearly two years behind bars, the brothers will likely get a "more realistic" trial date at a July 13 court hearing in Detroit, according to Findling. "I think Friday will answer a lot of questions," he says
Among those questions is the fate of 16 of the Flenorys' co-defendants. They have not yet been scheduled for trial, nor have they been scheduled to enter a guilty plea. What's more, at least three of the 16 already have cooperated with the feds.
Twelve other co-defendants have pleaded guilty or are scheduled to plead, and two of them are cooperating as well. Defendants charged in BMF-related crimes in other states also struck deals in exchange for testimony, according to court documents.
The cooperating defendants include:
• Benjamin Anthony Johnson, who has not entered a guilty plea and is not scheduled for trial. Johnson grew up with the Flenorys in southwest Detroit, and he told the feds that he sold cocaine for the brothers in the late '80s and early '90s.
• Eric Wayne Bivens, another co-defendant who has neither a plea hearing nor a trial date scheduled. Bivens occasionally traveled with BMF's upper echelon, including Terry Flenory. He recalled to the feds an occasion during which Terry introduced him to Jacob "the Jeweler" Arabo, who's considered the "king of bling" and has designed diamond-encrusted jewelry for celebrities such as Jay-Z and Paris Hilton. Arabo is charged with laundering BMF drug proceeds through his swanky shop on New York's Upper East Side, and court documents state that Bivens will testify against him. Bivens told investigators, "Jacob's wife did not like the fact that Terry and Demetrius would come into the store with large groups of people. As a result, Jacob began meeting Terry in hotel rooms."
• Arnold Boyd, who pleaded guilty late last year and is cooperating with the government for a lesser sentence. Boyd told investigators that in 2003, he and Terry visited the Atlanta car dealership owned by Mayor Shirley Franklin's then-son-in-law, Tremayne Graham. (Graham was sentenced in April to life in prison for his role in a BMF-related cocaine enterprise, and several investigations are continuing; see related story.) A few days after the meeting, Graham picked up $250,000 from Terry as an investment in the dealership, and Boyd helped load the cash into Graham's vehicle.
• Mark Whaley and William Marshall, who pleaded guilty in a related federal money-laundering case in Orlando. Whaley received a 30-month sentence in January, and also "provided information to authorities in Georgia, New York and Michigan about BMF members in those jurisdictions," according to a court document filed in Orlando. Marshall, who hasn't yet been sentenced, told the feds that Meech gave Whaley $125,000 "to purchase jewelry from 'Jacob the Jeweler,'" according to a document filed in Detroit. When the check bounced, Marshall contacted Whaley on Meech's behalf to find out what happened. According to Marshall's statement, Whaley complained, "Do you know how hard it is to put $125,000 in $5s, $10s and $20s into a bank account?"
Arabo is among four of the Detroit defendants who face only money-laundering charges, and therefore will be tried separately. The others are the Flenorys' father, Charles Flenory, who's accused of using his sons' drug money to pay for their home renovations; Neil Bahura, a Detroit convenience store owner who is accused of laundering BMF's proceeds using a lottery scheme; and Ron Canyon, owner of a high-end California car dealership that allegedly supplied some of the Flenorys' vehicles.
Canyon is scheduled as the first of the defendants to go on trial, on July 23.
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