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United States of America v. Steven Northington

March 20, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
STEVEN NORTHINGTON



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant Steven Northington's Motion in Limine to Redact Portions of Cell Block Recording 655-2. (ECF No. 1125.) For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

On May 9, 2012, a federal grand jury returned a seventeen-count Fourth Superseding Indictment (the "Indictment") charging Defendant Steven Northington with: conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering ("RICO") enterprise, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (Count 1); two counts of murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2502(a), 306, and in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1), (2) (Counts 5, 7); and tampering with a witness, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(A) (Count 8). (Fourth Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 480.)*fn2 Defendant was charged along with three co-defendants, Kaboni Savage, Robert Merritt, and Savage's sister, Kidada Savage. Lamont Lewis was also charged in the First Superseding Indictment. The charges against Lewis were disposed of by guilty plea on April 21, 2011.

The charges against Defendant arise out of a long-standing RICO drug conspiracy that was supported by murder and witness intimidation. The Government alleges that all four Defendants were members of a regional criminal organization, which was based in North Philadelphia and was known as the Kaboni Savage Organization ("KSO"). (Indictment 5.) The Government alleges that from late 1997 through April 2010, the members of this racketeering enterprise conspired and agreed to distribute large quantities of controlled substances, to commit murder and arson, and to tamper with, and retaliate against, witnesses who had testified, or were about to testify, against the racketeering enterprise or its members. (Id. at 6-8.) The KSO packaged, prepared and distributed cocaine, crack and phencylclidine ("PCP") throughout the greater Philadelphia area, and collected drug proceeds in exchange. The KSO operated drug distribution centers, also known as "drug corners," throughout North Philadelphia and maintained control of these drug corners through a pattern of threats, intimidation, violence and murder. (Id. at 5.) The KSO was also committed to maintaining, preserving, protecting and expanding its power, territory, and profits. (Id. at 6.) It did this by tampering with and retaliating against Government witnesses and their families through the use of threats, intimidation, violence, and murder. (Id.)

On October 9, 2004, six people, including four children, died as a result of arson at a home located at 3256 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Indictment alleges that Kaboni Savage and Kidada Savage solicited and directed Lewis and Merritt to set fire to the home of Eugene Coleman, a former associate of Savage. (Id. at 21-23.) Kaboni Savage believed that Coleman was cooperating with the Government and was going to testify against him in his 2005 federal drug conspiracy trial.*fn3 The firebombing took the lives of Coleman's mother, his infant son, and four others. The Government intends to show at trial that the firebombing was ordered by Savage in order to intimidate Coleman and prevent him from testifying at the 2005 drug conspiracy trial.

The Indictment further alleges that, in support of the KSO, Defendant murdered Barry Parker on February 26, 2003. (Indictment 14.) On April 27, 2007, Defendant was found guilty of this murder in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, and was sentenced to life in prison. (ECF No. 428.) On February 26, 2004, Savage allegedly directed Defendant, and Dawud Bey, a fellow co-conspirator, to arrange for the murder of Tybius Flowers in order to prevent Flowers's attendance and testimony at Kaboni Savage's trial in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for the murder of Kenneth Lassiter. (Indictment 18.) On March 1, 2004, Defendant is alleged to have murdered Flowers. (Id.)

On March 5, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion in Limine to preclude the playing of a portion of a taped cell block conversation (labeled L655-2) between Kaboni Savage and Dawud Bey recorded on December 13, 2004. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 1125.) The Government filed a response to Defendant's Motion on March 9, 2013. (Gov't's Resp., ECF No. 1148.)

II. DISCUSSION

The Government intends to play the entire taped conversation between Savage and Bey. Defendant requests that the Court exclude the following portion of conversation L655-2:

DB: Ask "Dollar Bill," because "Dollar Bill" and "Reef" were together. Because "Dollar Bill" first showed me how they were pumping it up all about "boy."

KS: Yeah.

DB: I didn't even know, ...


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