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10th Precinct Conspiracy Trial

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One day in August [969, a good-looking 30-year-old black man named Millón Bat tle drove lus stake-bed truck up tu a lawn mowcr and engine repaii shop in FarmUigton and made the acquaintance of the proprietor a shulfling. sleepyeyed little man with heavily greascd black and grey lian named Guido laconelli. Bat tle said hc'd been lookin everywhere between Lapsing and Detroit lor someone who cootd fix the ceflcrete saw that he needed tor the construction work he was doing on a country road job. Guido said he could fix it. Battle said he didn't have enough money on him at the moment to pay foi the repair job. Guido said he would trust him for it. Two weeks later the black man re tur ned to pay his bill. And so was bom a "very nice friendship" between Battle and laconelli, according to Guido's wile Julie. who testified last week in behalf ofher husband al the lOth Precinct conspiracy trial in Recorder's C'ouri where nme Detroit policemen and seven civilians, including laconelli, stand ace use d of conspiring to sell narcotics and obstruct justice. The prosecution had finally rested after three months of test imony, and the defense had opened with laconelli. He was scheduled to be followed in turn by each of the 15 other defendants who choose to offer a case in their own defense. According to Julie laconelli, a large, pleasant-faced mother of four, she really ran things at the lawn tnower sliop. The complexities of business were simply beyond her husband- who, she says, can read and write only his name, her name, and the words "hi," "helio," and "I love you." The prosecution contends Guido, nevertheless, won became Millón Battle's cocaine supplier. Battle decided that selling illicit drugs might be considerably more lucrative than cutting lines(to be filled with tar) in the county's newly-poured cement roads. The laconellis maintain that Battle was nothing more than a regular customer at the lawn mowcr shop and a good friend who frequently visited their Farmington home and attended family parties. Yes, said Julio, Guido often took off foi an afternoon or an evening with Battle and once made an Ovemight plano trip wiih hini to Philadelphia. Bui her husband, she admittod, had a "weakncss" loi ihc attractive womeii in Batlle's social cuele, and the trip to l'hilly was for the purpose ofbuying Milton some shocs. "Greedo," as eariier witnesses often called liim. luis been diiving a senes of brand new ('adillacs for the past scverul yeais, even thougti Julie says their tinancial sitnation has often been unpleasant. The prosecution suggests that Battle nsed the laeonellis" business to launder some ot" his ill-gotten gain. Julie and (nido say the $20.000 Battle loaned them (Usted in the company records uiuleí someone else's name because Hat tic "didn'l want the 1RS to know") was needed because their creditois were angry and impatient. Only the jury, of coursc, will otïicially decide whero the íruth icsides. But if spectator reaction is any nieasure, then Guido's performance upon taking the stand in his own defense certainly did nothing to hurt his chances for acquHtal. Indeed most of those present feit the linie man's earnestly projeeted image of a naive, impoverished and contrito philariderer mighl well have ttlrned the tide for hini. Dressed as he invariably has been for the past several weeks in baggy plaid trousers, a rumpled mustard sport coat and a yellow tie that reached only half-way to his waist, Guido said he's always thiought that narcotics only carne in "water form." He ducked his head in comic embarrassment when describing a scène in which he camo upon Battle in bed with a couple of girls "with only bras and panties on." When asked about Wiley Reed, his primary accuser during prosecution testimony, Guido said quickiy, "I never seen the man in my life." "Are you sure about that?" asked his court-appointed attorney Michael Sapala. Said Guido: "1 hope to die right where I'm sitting if l'm lying." continued on page 23 Why fHappy" Battle Insecure continued from ÍM;iope íl':iít ui S?fced"!cd I? be );;, "fness fr (he wprosecution m ííie luth Preciiict trial. And 1101 ong ócfore that, he had stood as one of the defendants in the case, accused of being a prime mover in a loosely-organized heroin and cocaine ring on Detroit's west side. The operation allegedly involved an assortment of dealers and numerous cops, either on the take or themselves dealing. But back in January of this year, Battle was allowed to pload guilty on the charges (with sentenctng to be delayed until aller the trial) in exchange for his testimony for the prosecutiön. Shortly thercaftei Battle was taken from his residence at the Wayne County Jail and placed in proteetive custody at a secret location undet heavy guard. According to DPD Deputy Chief George Bennett, whose investigation helped to produce the current trial, Battle was "a very insecure man" who feit his lite wouldn't be worth nuich il he remained in the jail. Subsequently, Battle made a number of tapc-recorded statements to the prosecutors and was made available for questioning by defense attorneys. But contrary to the prosecutors' hopes, Battle said very little that might be helpful to their case, particularly with referenee to the nine cops on trial. For example. he reportedly had nothing at all incriminating to say about Sgt. Rudy Davis, who, according to the testimony of Battle's henchman Wiley Reed, had received thousands in pyaoffs from Battle. Bennett and the prosecutiön team took Battle back over his statements several times, reportedly wired him for a polygraph test. and checked his information against the testimony of many other witnesses. They finally concluded that he was offering something less than a ttuthful and accurate account of his activities in the drug business. Nonetheless, Battle remained on the list ofendorsed prosecutiön witnesses until the latter stages of the People's case, when the prosecutiön formally moved to have him diopped. Rudy Davis' attorney, Robert Harrison, argued strongly against the motion in an effort to force the prosecutiön to cali Battle. Judge Justin Raviu, however, finally ruled that the prosecutiön had every right to choose not to include Battle as a witness because he and his statements had been made available to the defense, and because he could be called by any of the defendants and their counsel. Now, as ironie as it might seem, that is apparently what's about to happen, since Rudy Davis has reportedly de_ BJPMBBM H5C " - - ciü"C ne wants attorney Harnso" to pui Bat i ie on the stand when it comes time for Davis to present his defense. Describing Battle as a bonib who might go off in any direction if brought in to testify, other defense attorneys are reportedly unhappy over this decisión and have warned Harrison that it's a dangerous move. But at this point in the proceedings it's every man for himself and Rudy Davis has apparently decided he needs the exculpaüon he expects from Happy Battle. When Battle pled guilty and said he would turn state's evidence, it was generally assumed that he had done so with the hope that his cooperation would win him a somewhat lighter sentenee. Having been convicted recently on another drug charge carrying a 20-year term, he couldn't hope to avoid prison entirely, but making a deal might give him a chance at freedom before his life was ennrciy Dciimu mm. ■- . Su wiiy, liicn, ÚÍJ SattiC cooptTíL ::: a !:::;!;;. n !css liian satisfactoiy io the prosecuüon? [f, as the prosecution contends, Bat tic has been lying about the case, why? The most prevalent speculation among close observers begins with George Bennett's reference to Battle as "very Insecure." Happy has, according to many sourees, good reason to feel concern for his continued well-being. When he was on the street supplying his dope houses. traveling out of state to buy large quantities of heroin, and bidding to become one of the city's dope kings, Battle (it is said) showed precious little regard for the value of a human life. It took very little, allegedly, for Battle to suggest, order or contract for the extermination of someoiK who had displeased him in one way or another. In the process, Battle made certain people very unhappy.and it seems entirelv possible that one of them might express his feelings, if given half a chance, in the violent world of prison society. II', so this argument goes, in addition to iliis unpleasant prospect, Battle carnes with him to the penitentiary the ceputation of ha ving lielped to put Rudy Davis and severa! other cops behind bars, his chance to secure a policy trom any life insurance company in the country would be next to uil . With his future welfare entirely in the hands of the authorities, Baltic must figure that his best chance for survival lies in domi gomething weïl-calculated to picase the pólice, To buttress this line of speculation, observers refer to the unfortunate case of James Lee Newton. 33, a.k.a. "Watusi Slim." Until last month, Watusi Slim was waiting to be brought to Recordcr's Courl trom a maximum security prison in Ohio (where he was serving tour to 25 years for robbery and burglary) to testify in a muider case against the notorious Detroit drug operator and alleged hitman, ('hester Whecler Campbell. Campbell was one of those onginally indicted in the lOth Precinct case. bul was not taken into custody until it was too late to include him in the curren! trial. He and a co-defendanl were charged with the murdcr of a man named Roy Parsons, and Watusi Slim was on tap as the key witnes.s. At a pre-trial hearing ín the case, Watusi said he had decided to testify against the defendants becausc "I figured that they would kill me any way." On August 21, less than a month before the murder trial date, . ï'uji w';;, ünu jciinii; iüTHc gymnasium biiCSIS ''■ '.',M vnrr' Correctional Facility at Lucasville with his throat slashed and small crosses etched into his eyelids. With the key wilness thus indisposed, the murder charge against Campbell was prompily dropped. A day or two later, during a break in the lOih Precinct proceedings, Wilfrid Rice, attorney for defendant Richard Kendricks and also one ofChestei ('ampbell's lawyers, walked into Judge Ravitz's courtroom and announced to ihose present that Watusi had been eliminated and the murder case dismissed. "Yes. sil ," said Mr. Rice, "Chester doesn't have to be mside to do business." Pamela Johnson covers the Wth Precinci conspiracy trial regularly for the SUN.