Darrent Williams murder trial, day six: Making deals and pointing fingers
Prosecutors say Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams (left) was shot and killed by 26-year-old Willie Clark (right) on New Year's Day 2007.
Westword is covering the trial of Willie Clark, accused of murdering Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams early on New Year's Day 2007. The most recent updates for the day will be at the top; to check out the account chronologically at day's end, read from the bottom up. Click here to read Friday's blog, which includes links for the first week's worth of testimony, and here for an account of day five.
5:57 p.m.: Veronica Garcia testified next. She said that on New Year's Eve 2006, Clark, who she'd known for more than ten years and who she believed to be a Tre Tre Crips gang member, was driving Hicks's white Chevy Tahoe and she was driving Clark's black Chevy Tahoe. She said she and Clark had switched cars a few days earlier because the CD player in Clark's Tahoe wasn't working.
That night, she said she saw Clark at around 10 p.m. at his cousin's house near Curtis Park. She said Clark was wearing a bulletproof vest, a green-and-white shirt, jeans and expensive tennis shoes. She said she doesn't remember if he was wearing big sunglasses, but she knew that he owned a pair. Clark told her he was going to Nugget Allen Iverson's party downtown with Anderson and Jackson-Keeling.
Garcia said she left the house soon after. She was living in a halfway house at the time because she had been arrested on drug charges, thereby violating her probation on other charges. She said Clark's cousin drove her to the halfway house in Clark's black Tahoe and that when she got there, she went to bed.
The next day, January 1, 2007, Garcia said Clark picked her up in his black Tahoe. "He didn't tell me exactly what he had done [the night before], but he said he had to get off on some niggas," she said.
"What did you take that to mean?" Twining asked.
"That they probably had a shootout with someone," Garcia said.
She said he also asked her to provide him with an alibi. "He said, 'If anybody asks you where I was last night, tell them I was with you,'" Garcia said. Clark then drove her to his cousin's house near Curtis Park, where the white Tahoe was parked. She said he told her it was "fucked up" and to "put it up," which she took as an instruction to park it. She said she drove the white Tahoe from Curtis Park to her home in Green Valley Ranch, a block from where Clark lived, and parked it in her garage.
"Did you notice anything unusual about the car? Was it fucked up?" Twining asked.
"No," she said.
The next day or the day after, Garcia said she saw on the news that the police were looking for a white Tahoe registered to Brian Hicks in connection with a homicide. She said she walked to Clark's house and told him he needed to get the Tahoe out of her garage; he told her he would do it after dark.
A few days later, she said she heard on the news that the Tahoe had been found about ten blocks from her house. It had been spray-painted black, and she said she asked her friend Vernone Edwards to go to her house and see if there were any empty spray paint cans in her garage. He said there were, she said. A few days later, she checked herself; "There was black dust all over the garage from the paint," she said, and "black footprints in my kitchen and on my carpet." Her house also smelled like gas, she said.
Garcia said she heard Clark talk about that night. On January 2, 2007, she said she, Clark and Harris drove around the area of 10th Avenue and Broadway, where the Safari club was located, looking for cameras. She said she heard Clark say they'd gotten into it with some guys from out of town at the club the night before and that the guys had said something like, "fuck the East side and fuck Denver."
Garcia said she also overheard Harris and Edwards talking about it. "Vernone said that Willie fucked up," she said. "And Daniel said he told that nigga not to do it."
After Clark was arrested on January 5, 2007, Garcia said he called her from the Denver City Jail and again asked her to make up an alibi for him. "He said, 'You know where I was that night. I was with you,'" she said.
"Were you with him that night?" Twining asked.
"No," Garcia said.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Abraham Hutt attacked Garcia's credibility. Garcia was arrested in the same federal drug trafficking sting that netted Hicks, Clark, Harris and others. Hutt pointed out that she was facing ten years to life on the federal charges and that her plea agreement to testify in this case would have prosecutors ask for her to serve three-to-four years instead.
He also asked her about initially telling police that she guessed that Edwards and Harris had killed Williams and were going to kill her because she knew about it. She admitted to saying that but said later she has no firsthand knowledge that either Edwards or Harris committed the murder.
Hutt asked if Garcia knew that Clark had gotten into a wreck on January 2 in one of Hicks's other vehicles, a green Ford Taurus. On the taped jailhouse call, the three of them sound like they're talking about Clark wrecking one of Hicks's cars. Garcia said she didn't know anything about the wreck.
After Hutt finished asking questions, Twining took another turn.
"Did you reach a conclusion as to the defendant's involvement [in the Williams shooting]?" he asked
"I believe he was in Brian's truck when Darrent Williams got killed," she said.
"Do you have any firsthand knowledge about the defendant shooting into that limo?"
Court ended at 4:30 p.m. The trial will resume at 9 a.m. tomorrow.
2:56 p.m.: When the jury came back from lunch, prosecutors played a taped statement from Harris, who was no longer in the courtroom. Harris is in the federal witness protection program; when he's released from prison, he -- and possibly his family, as well -- will likely be relocated at the government's expense.
His statement was largely the same as what he said on the stand. "I'm in the truck; I'm kind of drunk. I don't know about everybody else. I see Willie shooting out the car with the gun at the white limousine," he said. Defense attorneys have repeatedly said that Harris isn't credible; they tried to prove that to the jury by pointing to his plea deal, his prior convictions for lying to the police, his pending benefits through the witness protection program and what they say are inconsistent statements.
Prosecutors also played recordings of two jailhouse phone calls. The first is between Clark and Brian Hicks, who prosecutors have described as a drug kingpin and leader of the "Elite Eight" subset of the Tre Tre Crips gang. They say Clark worked for Hicks, who was in prison on drug charges. It takes place on December 19, 2006, about two weeks before the shooting. It's muffled and hard to understand, but it sounds like the men are discussing getting license plates for a white "whip," or vehicle.
The second call takes place on January 2, 2007, a day after the shooting. Hicks starts off talking to his girlfriend, Veronica Garcia, and complaining that the guards put him in the hole for no reason and took him to court "chained up like the Unabomber." Then she asks him if Mike Jones, which at least one witness has said is one of Clark's nicknames, told him "the car is broke." "He told me something, but he ain't tell me that," Hicks said. "I asked him, like, 'Is the whip cool?' He's like, 'Yeah.'"
Garcia then gets Clark on the line. Again, it's hard to understand what the two are saying. At one point, Clark mentions New Year's Eve. He also tells Hicks that "it's all good" and that "it was like a blind side hit." At one point, Hicks gives Clark directions to somewhere, but it's unclear where.
"You said you too hot to be coming up here?" Hicks asks.
"Yeah," Clark says.
On the stand, Detective Michael Martinez testified that he believed that Hicks was telling Clark to take the license plates off the Tahoe. When it was found two days later, the plates were still on it.
The court took a break at 2:40 p.m. The trial will resume at 3.
12:19 p.m.: The courtroom is packed today, especially the rows reserved for Clark's friends and family. Clark is sitting between his lawyers, wearing a plaid, button-down dress shirt. He's taking notes, as usual.
After the break, Harris returned to the stand. Cantor asked him about telling prosecutors that while he was in Mexico, he was going out to nightclubs and "wasn't very worried about the legal situation."
"I don't remember," Harris said.
Cantor also asked him about his prior convictions, including one out of South Dakota for shooting a firearm at a moving vehicle or occupied structure, for which he served six years in prison.
"A drive-by?" Cantor asked.
"No," Harris said.
"When we boil it down in the end, if you get what you expect out of this [plea deal], you're going to be out of jail in two-and-a-half years?" Cantor asked, referencing the time Harris has already served.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Harris said. He sounded defiant.
Prosecutor Tim Twining questioned Harris again. He asked him to identify photos of Anderson and Jackson-Keeling, which he did. When asked about their role that night, Harris said they were passengers in the Tahoe. Twining also asked Harris again about Clark's role. "He was leaning over the passenger and he was shooting out that window," Harris said. "Guaranteed."
"What was your role?" Twining asked.
"Nothing. I was a passenger in the back seat."
"Were you the shooter?"
"Did you have a gun?"
Later, Twining asked him who did do the shooting.
"Willie Clark," Harris said.
"Are you certain of that?"
The court took a lunch break just before noon. The trial will resume at 1 p.m.
11:06 a.m.: Before the jury arrived this morning, two witnesses -- Mario Anderson and Kataina "Markie" Jackson-Keeling -- again told Judge Christina Habas that they refuse to testify in the case. Prosecutors say Anderson and Jackson-Keeling, along with Daniel "PT" Harris, were with Willie Clark in the white Chevy Tahoe when he shot at Darrent Williams' limo in the early hours of New Year's Eve 2007.
Both men told a grand jury that they don't know anything about the crime. Harris, who will resume his testimony this morning at 9 a.m., is the only witness so far to identify Clark as the shooter.
Just after 9 a.m., Harris again took the stand for further cross-examination by defense attorney Darren Cantor.
Cantor continued grilling him about the plea agreement he made with federal and state prosecutors to testify against Clark in this case. Harris was facing up to life in prison on federal drug trafficking charges; he said he was a prolific crack dealer who made enough money selling drugs to buy a $600,000 house. But Harris cut a deal that says prosecutors could instead ask a federal judge to sentence him to just five years if they deem his testimony in this case to be truthful.
Cantor repeatedly asked Harris, who also used to sell cars, about how he negotiated that agreement.
"When you're selling cars, you make sure you get a good deal?" Cantor asked.
"I know the car business," Harris said.
"When you're selling drugs, you make sure you get a good deal?" Cantor asked.
"I know the drug business," Harris said.
"But when you were selling the rest of your life, you didn't make sure you got a good deal?" Cantor asked.
"I'm not a lawyer," Harris said, adding that he doesn't know the particulars of the deal.
Harris again said he doesn't remember much about what happened at the club that night. But several witnesses say Harris was involved in several altercations both inside and outside the club. They say he was one of two men who approached the Broncos' group and yelled at them because they had sprayed him and Clark with champagne at midnight. Later, outside the club at let-out, witnesses say Harris stood in the middle of the street, acting like he had a gun and inviting the Broncos to fight. Bronco Brandon Marshall testified that at one point, Harris punched him in the jaw and then ran off.
"You saw athletes that night?" Cantor asked.
"No, I didn't," Harris said.
"And you were mad they were splashing around money?"
"When you're outside the club, the guys with the athletes were yelling stuff back at you?"
"I didn't know they were athletes. I just knew they were yelling,"
"And you're yelling back at them, 'East Side, East Side?'"
"I don't remember that."
"You went out in that street all by yourself to challenge the friends of Darrent Williams to fight?"
"I don't recall that."
Harris denied telling a woman in Mexico, where he hid out for several months after the shooting, that he was the one who shot Williams. He also denied having sexual relations with any women there.
Cantor then showed the jury several photos that were retrieved from Harris's thumb drive when he was arrested at the airport upon his return to Denver. They show him smiling and partying, with his arms around bikini-clad women. "Feeling pretty safe in that picture?" Cantor asked.
"Yes," Harris said.
The court took a morning break at 10:30 a.m. The trial will resume at 11.
During the break, lawyers on both sides -- in addition to federal lawyers -- argued about whether Clark's attorneys should be allowed to take photos of Harris's tattoos. "We have no doubt he's a gang member," Cantor said. "And we fully expect to see some tattoo that we can argue is a gang tattoo."