By Ralph Cipriano
Paul Daniels was a drug dealer in prison when he decided to become a cooperating witness. That's when the death threats to his family began.
Daniels told the jury at the Kaboni Savage trial about back in 2004, imprisoned drug dealer Dawud Bey took him aside and asked if he "was cooperating."
Bey warned Daniels that he only needed one phone call "to make magic happen." To Daniels, that meant his family member was in grave danger.
The next inmate to deliver the message was Kaboni Savage himself, Daniels told the jury. Daniels said other inmates told him that Savage was going to use the prison toilets to talk to him.
"Kaboni's on the bowl," one inmate told him.
At the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, inmates would talk to each other on the "toilet phone." There are numerous ways to do this, former inmates say. You can drain the toilet and yell through it; talk through the toilet trap, or run a hose through and talk through that.
Whichever method was employed at FDC was not disclosed.
Daniels did say when he stuck his head near the toilet, he couldn't make out what Savage was saying. Another inmate stepped in and relayed Savage's message: "He's making like he can't hear me. Tell him I'll kill his son."
The death threat from the toilet phone was today's court highlight as Daniels testified against his former boss. Savage is facing the death penalty for a dozen murders, including a firebombing that killed two women and four children who were relatives of a man who was going to testify against him.
Daniels spoke in a soft, matter-of-fact voice about the ins and outs of the drug business. While he testified, Savage didn't even look at him. The former drug kingpin with the beard and shaved head was usually bent over, looking down and taking notes, or talking with his lawyers.
During breaks, Savage smiled and joked with his sister, Kidada, a co-defendant accused of setting up the firebombing that killed six family members of Eugene Coleman. Coleman, a former Savage associate, became a government witness, and is expected to be one of the key witnesses at the trial.
Daniels told the jury how his gang operated two lucrative drug corners at 10th and Brown and 10th and Parrish near the old Richard Allen projects. During the 1990s, Daniels employed 25 dealers who worked under him.
He was moving "weight," he said, two or three kilos of cocaine at a time, all of which was supplied by Savage. It was his father, the late drug dealer Gerald "Bubbie' Thomas, who introduced him to Savage, Daniels testified.
Between late 1998 and early 2001, Savage supplied him with between 25 and 50 kilos of cocaine, Daniels told the jury.
The prosecution played several taped phone calls of conversations between Daniels, Thomas and Savage.
"He's gonna meet me on 28th St.," Savage said on one phone call. That meant Thomas had agreed to pay $28,000 for a kilo of cocaine, Daniels told the jury.
On the tapes, the drug dealers were heard discussing how many ounces they were going to use to cut the cocaine. "It depends on the quality of the cocaine," Daniels told the jury. The usual formula called for adding between four to four and a half ounces to the coke.
"It passed the blood test," Savage was overhead saying on the tapes. Daniels translated for the jury. "He was talking about the quality of cocaine, how good it was," Daniels said. On the tapes, when a drug dealer talked about a pound, he was referring to five kilos; a deuce was two kilos.
Of course, if you were diluting the cocaine, that meant you got to grab some for yourself. "I took mine out off the top," Savage was heard saying on another tape.
When somebody owed Savage money for a coke buy, Savage yelled, "I need it man, I'm fucked up."
"He was talking about the money for the cocaine," Daniels told the jury.
Often, Savage would set a price, and then raise it $1,000 at a time, Daniels said. "Kaboni told me $28,000. He went up $1,000 on me."
"We were just haggling back and forth," Daniels explained after another tape was played. "I thought he was charging too much for the kilos."
Savage wasn't the only dealer trying to screw him, Daniels said. Often, his father also jacked up the price.
But Savage carried the best merchandise. "Man, that mother-fucker's top choice," Savage was heard yelling on another tape. Thomas agreed, saying, "It's grade A man."