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Drug kingpin's testimony nixed

Live from solitary confinement in Atlanta federal penitentiary . . . convicted drug kingpin, wannabe killer and King of Witness Intimidators, Kaboni Savage!

Live from solitary confinement in Atlanta federal penitentiary . . . convicted drug kingpin, wannabe killer and King of Witness Intimidators, Kaboni Savage!

Oops! Due to technical difficulties, Savage's TV appearance was cut short yesterday.

Sanity prevailed.

Savage, 32, had agreed to testify on behalf of his convicted drug pal, Steven Northington, who is on trial for ordering the Feb. 26, 2003, murder of Barry Parker, a rival dealer he allegedly accused of taking over his North Philadelphia corner.

No defendant in his right mind should want Savage to testify on his behalf, given Savage's chilling threats, secretly recorded by the FBI and played last year during his seven-week drug-trafficking and witness-intimidation trial that drew him a 30-year sentence.

Northington, in the same trial, was sentenced to a 20-year federal term.

In those tapes, Savage wanted to retaliate against cooperators' families: "blow off the head of a 5-year-old," pour barbecue sauce on a six-member family murdered by arson and "smack [another kid] in the head with a bat."

Yesterday, when asked why he was in solitary confinement, Savage replied: "They think I have violent tendencies."

At the last moment, Northington decided against having his childhood friend testify, though Savage was ready on the TV monitor in Courtroom 1106 in the Criminal Justice Center.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina quizzed the defendant, who had waived a jury trial: "If there's anything you want him to be asked and be cross-examined on, this is the time to do it. You won't be able to complain later."

Northington said that Savage's mother, Barbara, and sister, Kidada, already had testified about Eugene "Twin" Coleman, Savage's onetime top aide, who cooperated with authorities. Northington wanted to discredit Coleman, who testified against him last week.

His decision was a relief to his attorneys, Thomas McGill and Gary Server, and to Savage's attorney, Christopher Warren.

Not only could Savage's testimony prejudice Northington's case, but it could jeopardize Savage in a potential legal matter.

Savage is the prime suspect in an ongoing federal investigation into the October 2003 firebombing of a North Philadelphia home occupied by Coleman's mother, 15-month-old son and four others, who were killed.

Called the worst massacre since the seven Lex Street murders in 2000, the arson murders are believed to be in retaliation for Coleman's cooperation.

Earlier yesterday, Savage's mother and sister testified about a four-year-old conversation involving Coleman that they had never disclosed to authorities or to Savage's attorney, though it may have helped him at trial.

Barbara Savage, who claimed she didn't know that her son was a drug dealer, testified that Coleman and Tyrone Tolliver had gotten into an argument, and Tolliver had slapped him on her porch, shortly before Tolliver was killed.

Kidada admitted that she told Northington's attorneys only a week ago that Coleman had told her brother that "he had to do it [kill Tolliver] because he didn't have the money."

Coleman pleaded "no contest" to the murder.

Crossing her arms and biting her lip, Kidada repeatedly flip-flopped about a threatening letter, dated Sept., 11, 2003, that she had sent to Coleman, under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson.

She testified that it didn't contain threats and that she was just telling Coleman not to lie. She denied she wrote threats in her own handwriting about Coleman's family at the bottom of the letter.

She also denied that she had put profiles of Coleman and other cooperaters on the "Who's a Rat?" Web site, even though the home page read: "Welcome Kidada."