Talk of 'Street War' as Music Exec's Case Wraps
MANHATTAN (CN) - The murder of an associate of rapper 50 Cent ended the "all-out street war" fought by a former music executive and his accomplice, a federal prosecutor said Monday, capping off a month-long trial.
James "Jimmy the Henchman" Rosemond, who is already is serving life after an unrelated 2012 federal trial in Brooklyn, faces a new jury weighing whether he paid goons drugs and cash to kill Lowell "Lodi Mack" Fletcher, affiliated with 50 Cent's crew G-Unit. The Sept. 26, 2009, hit was alleged payback for Fletcher's assault on Rosemond's 14-year-old son.
As the parties convened for closing arguments Monday, however, Assistant U.S. Attorney Santosh Aravind told jurors that a feud had been brewing for years before that incident.
In 2003, Rosemond's company Czar Entertainment allegedly got into multiple shootouts with the offices of their competitor Violator Records. Fletcher's shooter, Derrick Grant, also fired into the 11th floor of Violator's office building, turning a street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood into a "war zone," Aravind said.
That same year, someone connected to Czar allegedly fired shots at the Violator executive Chris Lightly's Chevy Suburban.
In 2005, another shooting took place at the hip-hop radio station Hot 97, which was then airing an interview with 50 Cent. Undercover police officers arrested Mohammad Stewart, a former Czar employee now testifying for the government, a year later for another attempted shooting at Violator's office space, Aravind added.
G-Unit members flashed, but did not shoot, a gun at Rosemond inside Harlem's historic Apollo Theater shortly after that, the prosecutor said.
Despite attempts at reconciliation, "the beef wasn't squashed," Aravind said.
Stewart, a key government witness, had said that, after the assault on Rosemond's son, Rosemond vowed to "attack them three ways, legally, through music and in the streets."
Legally, Fletcher served a prison sentence for slapping Rosemond's son, and Czar released music about its feud with 50 Cent's crew, Aravind said.
Stewart testified that the third prong of Rosemond's alleged retribution in "the streets" had been murder, the prosecutor noted.
"Jimmy was like, they ain't gonna understand what it is till them niggers is carrying a coffin, and they crying like, 'I miss my homie, I miss my homie,'" Stewart said, in a passage of transcript displayed to jurors.
Another witness, Brian McCleod, spoke of Rosemond offering $10,000 to leave a "mark or scar" on Fletcher at an Aug. 17, 2009, meeting with him in Central Park.
Defense attorneys for Rosemond and his co-defendant Rodney Johnson seized upon that phrasing to suggest that murder was not the plan. Plotting a shooting that had gone awry would be a crime typically tried in state rather than federal court, they noted.
Donald Yannella, a lawyer for Johnson, the co-defendant, emphasized the prosecution's burden to prove that murder always had been on the agenda by pointing out that nobody died before Fletcher.
He referred to the prior feud as "a long line of precedent here of violence taking place without anyone being killed."
Prosecutors said that things escalated, however, when Rosemond upped the ante to a $30,000 bounty at a later Whole Foods meeting with witness McCleod. Rosemond and his alleged henchmen also met occasionally at the Houston's restaurant franchise in Manhattan, Aravind said.
Cellphone records also confirm the bulk of these meetings, and forensics tie Rosemond's gun and bullets to the murder, the prosecutor added.
At Houston's, Rosemond and his crew allegedly decided that they would speak about the time and place for Fletcher's murder in coded language about finding a "girl" for a "date."
McCleod testified that he pretended he was trying to reunite with an old friend when he called Fletcher's lawyer on the day of his release from prison.
After the ruse succeeded, McCleod allegedly sent Rosemond a text message telling him he had "something like a hot date."
Aravind noted that Rosemond replied, "Have fun."
On the day of the shooting, Rosemond flew out to Miami, the parties agree.
Though Aravand said he doubted the timing had been a coincidence, Rosemond's lawyer Bruce Maffeo previously emphasized that fact as evidence distancing his client from the scene of the crime.
As he had throughout trial, Maffeo took aim at the credibility of the government's cooperating witnesses, whom he says need the prosecution's recommendation letters to avoid heavy jail time.
"The witnesses know at the end of the day without that letter, their lives are over," he said.
While he took swipes at all four cooperating witnesses, Maffeo took particular aim at Stewart, whose lengthy criminal history he untangled under cross-examination.
Stewart's cooperating agreement states that committing another crime would void the document, but prosecutors later forgave Stewart for a multiple alleged crimes and one criminal conviction after it was signed, Maffeo said.
Summations continue, and are expected to conclude, on Tuesday with the government's rebuttal.