The ringleader of one of the city's most violent drug gangs ever, Kaboni Savage, was back in federal district court yesterday where he was arraigned on charges he ordered two associates to firebomb a North Philadelphia home in 2004, killing six people.
Savage, who was completely shackled and closely watched by four U.S. marshals, pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, witness tampering, retaliating against a witness and using fire to commit a felony.
Defense attorney Christopher Warren filed court papers yesterday asking U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick to order the Bureau of Prisons to keep Savage, 34, at the Federal Detention Center here, but Surrick declined to do so for now.
Warren said Savage's constitutional rights would be trampled if he is transported back to the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo., where he is presently serving a 30-year sentence for a 2006 drug-trafficking conviction.
Warren said Savage would not be able to adequately prepare for trial - which is not expected to start for at least a year - if he was returned to Colorado.
The defense attorney also said Savage had complained to him that prison authorities were playing country & western music outside his cell 24 hours a day.
Addressing the new charges, Warren said Savage was the "victim of the most vicious propaganda campaign since Joseph Goebbels convinced the German people Jews were responsible for all their problems." (Goebbels was minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.)
The feds have a different view and allege that Savage ordered two co-defendants, Lamont Lewis and Robert Merritt, to firebomb the home of Marcella Coleman in October 2004.
In addition to Coleman, the fire killed five other family members, including four children, among them her 15-month old grandson, Damir.
Savage ordered the hit from prison, authorities said, because he believed Damir's father, Eugene "Twin" Coleman, a one-time top aide to Savage, was cooperating with the feds.
Warren said he expects Coleman will be one of the government's star witnesses against Savage.
In an indictment handed up on April 8, the feds charged Savage also had a hand in five other murders.
Savage was convicted in federal district court here in 2006 of drug trafficking, money laundering and witness intimidation charges.
Authorities said Savage and three others were part of a violent drug gang that operated in North Philadelphia from 1997 to 2007.
Earlier yesterday, Steven "Smoke" Northington, 37, a co-defendant in the case, pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, two counts of murder in aid of racketeering and witness tampering. *