In a venomous rage, convicted drug trafficker Kaboni Savage vowed on tape to pour barbecue sauce on a federal witness' mother, son and four others subsequently killed in a 2004 gasoline-soaked North Philadelphia house torched by two arsonists.
Today, Savage, 34, is expected to plead not guilty to ordering the arson-deaths of the family of onetime top aide-turned-witness, Eugene "Twin" Coleman, and ordering or participating in five other slayings, for a total of 11.
Calling Savage "a victim of a propaganda campaign," attorney Christopher Warren said his client "has always denied this and looks forward to trial for the opportunity to show he had nothing to do with [any of the slayings]."
Warren said that testimony against his client comes from "corrupt and polluted sources" who had something to gain.
Convicted of operating a multimillion-dollar drug ring in 2005, Savage is charged with giving the arson-murder contract to his top alleged hit men, Robert Merritt Jr., 28, and Lamont "Mont" Lewis, 32, who were charged in April with Savage and Steven "Smoke" Northington in a 26-count murder-racketeering indictment.
Northington was expected to plead not guilty today to two counts of murder in the aid of racketeering, including the Feb. 23, 2003, murder of rival drug dealer Barry Parker and the March 1, 2004, killing of welterweight boxer Tybius "Tib" Flowers, 32, who was to testify that he saw Savage fatally shoot motorist Kenneth Lassiter over a parking space.
Yesterday, Merritt pleaded not guilty to six counts of murder, racketeering and conspiracy in the Coleman house fire. Savage, Merritt and Lewis were charged with tampering with and retaliating against witnesses and with using fire to commit a felony.
Asked if Savage, Merritt and Northington would be held together at the Federal Detention Center, assistant U.S. Attorneys David Troyer and Christine Sykes said that would be up to the Bureau of Prisons.
A source close to the investigation said that the three drug gang members would not be housed together.
Earlier at the detention center, Savage was wiretapped spewing threats about killing babies and children of witnesses as well as guards and federal agents.
Savage made the threats while speaking into the toilet bowl when it was flushed to communicate with prisoners on other floors, according to tape recordings, dubbed "The Toilet Tapes," played during the 2005 federal drug trial.
The Bureau of Prisons is expected to immediately move Savage after his arraignment back to the underground Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo., where he is locked down 23 hours a day, said a source close to the case.
Northington is serving a life sentence for murder in state prison and a 20-year federal sentence for his role in Savage's drug ring. Merritt is serving a 16-year sentence for federal gun violations.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick appointed attorney William Spade to represent Merritt and promised to provide legal counsel skilled in handling death-penalty cases.
If convicted, Savage, Merritt, Northington and Lewis could face the death penalty. *