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Petties Name and Reputation Surface In Dotson Trial

Cecil Dotson was a Gangster Disciple trying to leave the street gang at a time when the Memphis part of the street gang was in turmoil.

That’s the backdrop that the defense in the murder trial of Jesse Dotson will use as the case unfolds at the Criminal Justice Center with a jury from Nashville.

Defense attorney Marty McAfee laid out the scenario on the first day of the trial Tuesday in his opening statement. It guarantees the jury and the many Memphians watching the trial will be hearing a lot about gang life and gang rivalries, a possible connection Memphis police investigated and later dismissed according to prosecutors.

Dotson is being tried in Criminal Court for the worst mass murder in modern Memphis history. He is accused of killing six people, including his brother Cecil and trying to kill three children.

McAfee raised the name of Craig Petties, the alleged leader of the largest and most violent drug organization ever prosecuted in Memphis federal court.

McAfee talked in general terms about Petties, a figure he is familiar with.

McAfee is lead attorney for Martin Lewis, one of Petties’ codefendants. Lewis is one of four codefendants facing murder for hire charges as well as racketeering and money laundering charges along with Petties. Federal prosecutors originally considered seeking the federal death penalty against Lewis and the three others but recently decided against it. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys for Petties have said what decision Justice Department officials in Washington made about seeking the death penalty for Petties.

The federal case against Petties is that he ran a multi state drug organization starting in 1995 that was rooted in his status as a Gangster Disciple and his direct ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico. When Petties was about to be indicted on federal drug charges in 2002, he fled to Mexico where he allegedly ran the drug operation in Memphis by cell phone for the next six years.

Petties was arrested in Mexico and brought back to the United States less than three months before the Lester Street murders.

“Somebody snitched and he (Petties) got arrested in Mexico and that happened very close to the time that these killings occurred,” McAfee told the jury.

Weeks before the Lester Street killings, Eric Brown, described by McAfee as the Gangster Disciples overseer for Memphis, was shot to death by Vernon Motley, whom he identified as a member of the rival Traveling Vice Lords gang.

Motley’s girlfriend was a first cousin of Cecil Dotson, according to McAfee. In the weeks after the February shooting of Brown, McAfee described a search by Gangster Disciples for the gun used to kill Brown. Police were also looking for Brown by early March as a suspect in the murder.

Motley was arrested and charged with Brown’s murder in April, a month after the Lester Street murders. Prior to the charges, McAfee said Gangster Disciples were looking for the gun that had killed their leader, presumably to track down who was responsible.

“He’s freaking out,” McAfee said of Cecil Dotson. “He’s hearing, ‘What do you have to do with this gun? Why are people asking (him) about this?’”

Hours before he died, McAfee said the defense will show that Cecil Dotson tried to buy a gun from a gang associate and that the encounter ended in an argument.

It was unclear whether Cecil Dotson had a “falling out” with the gang member then or earlier. But McAfee said Dotson had called police at some point to the house.

“That’s kind of frowned on in the Gangster Disciples,’ he said.

More disturbing was an excerpt from a transcript of a March 6, 2008 hospital interview a trained forensic investigator from the Child Advocacy Center did with nine year old Cecil Dotson. He is the oldest survivor of the attack and prosecutors say he will testify that Jesse Dotson killed his father and five other people and tried to kill him.

Prosecutor Ray Lepone told the jury it took time to talk to the child about the attack because of his medical condition. He said the boy was at first spouting obscenities in a rambling monologue that may have been him reliving the attack.

But the passages read by McAfee paint a very different picture of the questioning.

In those passages, the boy appeared to have answered the questions about the attack, punctuated by continually calling his questioner “bitch.”

In that version, McAfee said the boy claimed a woman known to the family knocked on the door of the house on Lester Street and got in the house followed by someone named “Roderick” or “Roger” who “got on down.”

Shhh – We’re Outsourced, but Still a Library

The Sunday New York Times had an interesting look at Library Systems & Services, an outsourcing company that’s grown to become the country’s fifth-largest library system.

In Shelby County, LSSI runs libraries in Arlington, Collierville, Germantown and Millington, according to www.lssi.com.

I remember working for a community newspaper in Collierville when LSSI took over the library there several years ago. It was a bit of a head-scratcher in some circles. It’s not like there’s a lot of fee revenue coming into libraries – how do these guys make a profit? is often asked on the front end.

The NYT story says the company does so more often than not by cleaning house.

From the story:
“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite (Frank Pezzanite, LSSI’s chief executive) said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”

McWherter To Serve Whitehaven

If one of the servers at the Whitehaven Plaza Piccadilly during the Saturday rush looks like Mike McWherter, it’s because it will be Mike McWherter donning a hair net and wielding a serving spoon.

The restaurant is the latest in a series of campaign appearances McWherter has done across the state where he goes to work for several hours at a local business.

McWherter has picked a spot with an established political record. The Piccadilly at 3968 Elvis Presley Boulevard is known as a favorite haunt of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. It’s also usually packed during the weekday lunch hours making it a prime spot for politicos courting the Whitehaven vote.

On Friday afternoon, McWherter included Hutchison School in East Memphis in his campaign rounds. He spoke to over 250 students in the Upper School about public service and told them he believes the governor’s race will be won during the early voting period before the Nov. 2 election day. Early voting begins across the state Oct. 13.

McWherter’s prediction is a sign that his campaign as well as that of Republican contender Bill Haslam plan to devote lots of campaign money and effort at the early vote. Haslam noted during the August primary campaign that he wanted to take advantage of early voter turnout in other parts of the state where the early vote frequently accounts for half or more of the total voter turnout including election day.

In Shelby County, the percentage of the turnout that is early voting is usually lower, around 30 percent or 40 percent depending on the election cycle.

McWherter dropped in on a few classrooms after the Upper School assembly.

He attempted to explain what a governor is to a group of 13 first graders exploring, among other topics, monarch butterflies.

“It’s the most important office in Tennessee,” McWherter said. “The only person who outranks the governor is the President. It’s a real big job.”

McWherter posed for a picture with the group, taking a seat on a rug as the class huddled around him.

After the pictures were taken, McWherter asked “Did anyone put horns over my head?” Instantly a dozen of the girls pointed to the remaining classmate as McWherter laughed.

McWherter explained to a fourth grade class that his father was once governor before any of them were born.

The visit recalled a visit during Ned McWherter’s tenure as governor to a Bartlett grade school. The elder McWherter arrived at the school as several boys who had misbehaved were serving their time on an outside porch of the building. The group of four stood apart from each other. Each with their arms folded, no doubt contemplating what they had done. All four heads turned as McWherter made his way across the parking lot and approached them. One of the boys broke formation and McWherter stopped to see what was on his mind.

“Are you really the Governor?” the boy asked.

“Yes, I am,” McWherter said sensing that the boys were probably not the school’s welcoming committee.

After acknowledging why they were on the school’s back porch, the boy stepped back to his original position and McWherter was allowed to pass.

California Girl – in Memphis

Singer Katy Perry on Thursday posted to her Twitter feed a picture of herself and her husband, British comedian Russell Brand, seated on the front steps of Graceland, which they visited this week.

Two Become One

Two Mid-South banks – Trustmark Corp. and Cadence Financial Corp., each with a handful of branches in Shelby County – announced the signing of a merger agreement Wednesday afternoon.

Cadence is merging its 38 offices in five states into Trustmark, which also offered to buy the $44 million of Troubled Asset Relief Program money and associated warrants Cadence has not yet repaid to the federal government for a little more than $30 million. The U.S. Treasury has indicated it is tentatively willing to sell its preferred stock in Cadence and associated warrants subject to entry into a definitive agreement that’s acceptable to Treasury officials.

The merger means the end of a 125-year-old bank, Cadence, and the continued upswing of Trustmark, which recently repaid its own TARP funds and had what Trustmark CEO Richard Hickson told The Daily News was “a great 2009.”

Hickson is retiring at the end of the year.

The Trustmark-Cadence merger is expected to close no later than the first quarter of 2011 and is subject to approval by regulatory authorities and Cadence’s shareholders as well as certain other closing conditions.

Trustmark was advised by the investment banking firm of Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P., as well as the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC. Cadence was advised by the investment banking firm of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc., and the law firm of Jackson Walker L.L.P.

Cadence had $1 billion in loans and $1.5 billion in deposits as of June 30.

Dansette

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