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Supremes dismiss murder charge against Dem Franchize Boyz rapper
Fulton County prosecutors waited too long to indict rapper Maurice “Parlae” Gleaton and another man on murder charges, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The court held that Gleaton, one of four members of Atlanta-based Dem Franchize Boyz, was denied a speedy trial when prosecutors “effectively abandoned the case” for nearly four years.
Dem Franchize Boys, signed by record producer Jermaine Dupri in 2005, hit the top of Billboard’s rap chart a year later with the single “Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” and album “On Top of Our Game.” The group released its third and most recent album in 2008.
Gleaton, 27, and Antonio Clark were arrested in 2005 in the shooting death of Kenneth Kemp at Rachel’s Walk Apartments in Atlanta. Investigators said later that Kemp, who was shot in the back, was the prime suspect in another murder that occurred a day before his death.
Two of the three witnesses who implicated Gleaton soon recanted their statements, and the third refused to cooperate further with prosecutors.
Gleaton and Clark were released in November 2005 on bond. Police and prosecutors did nothing more with the case until August 2009, when prosecutors obtained a murder indictment against both men.
Defense attorneys quickly moved to dismiss the charges, noting that the apartments had been closed and condemned in the four years since the crime, making it nearly impossible to track down witnesses or forensic evidence. Prosecutors attacked the motion on procedural grounds, which both the trial court and high court rejected.
The trial court, Justice Harris Hines wrote in the court’s majority opinion, “found specifically that both the police and the district attorney’s office did no investigation in the case for the entire almost four-year period between arrest and indictment, and that the only reason given to explain the lack of investigation or activity in the case is the State’s obvious lack of desire to prosecute a case that was severely lacking in evidence.”
The facts of the case, Hines wrote, “result in the reasonable inference that the delay in this case was caused by the State’s unwillingness to pursue what could at best be characterized as a weak case.”
The Supreme Court upheld dismissal of the charges on a 4-3 vote.
Justice Harold Melton, writing for the court’s minority, said defense attorneys had not proven that the four-delay had irreparably harmed their case:
“… the deteriorating condition of the apartment complex over time has nothing to do with impeding an investigation by the defense that could have, and should have, taken place in 2005 while the case was still fresh and being investigated by the police.”
Gleaton was charged with trafficking marijuana in 2006 after police raided an Atlanta recording studio and seized 11 pounds of marijuana and more than $150,000 in cash.
The charges against Gleaton were later dismissed. He said at the time that he was an innocent bystander:
“To my fans, this was an illegitimate charge. This is totally out of my character and I hate that it ever happened. I don’t condone being in that type of environment and I had no idea that drugs were even in the studio because I was just there to work.”
A footnote: Gleaton and Clark were among 45 names released in 2009 by District Attorney Paul Howard as examples of accused killers who should have remained behind bars while awaiting trial. The DA, following a high-profile crime committed by murder defendant Antoine Wimes while free on bond, complained that judges had released dozens of other alleged murderers as well.
As we reported at the time, Howard’s list had some problems. Three of those 45 defendants were actually in jail, four were facing lesser charges and two had been released after prosecutors dropped murder charges.
Wimes was sentenced to 75 years in prison last week for shooting his sister’s best friend and slamming her 1-year-old son against a wall.