By George Anastasia
Shortly before noon today jurors in the Kaboni Savage racketeering-murder trial once again heard Savage promise to kill and maim "rats" and their family members, anybody, he said, who was associated with witnesses who were cooperating against him.
"That's all I dream about ... killing rats," Savage said on one of 10 secretly recorded conversations played by the prosecution. "My dreams are contorted."
On another, he cackled and said, "I want to smack one of their four-year-olds with a baseball bat."
Jurors also heard him rant about how he wanted to tortured and burn a captain in the Federal Detention Center where he was being held and heard him describe how violence could prove to be a valuable asset on the streets.
"You take a certain reputation and run it to the moon," he said.
Minutes after the last tape was played, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer, the lead prosecutor in the case, announced, "The United States of America rests."
Eleven weeks in the making, the case against Savage, 38, and three co-defendants could be in the hands of the jury early next month. The defense is expected to take about a week presenting witnesses and evidence.
Savage and two of his co-defendants face possible death sentences if convicted.
Judge R. Barclay Surrick recessed the trial today until Monday when the defense presentation will begin. Christian Hoey, one of Savage's two court-appointed lawyers, would not comment on whether his client would take the stand.
Savage testified in his own defense at a 2005 federal drug trafficking trial. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The current case grew out of the same federal investigation. But this time the case focuses on 12 murders, 11 of which authorities say were ordered or carried out by Savage.
The murders, authorities allege, were carried out to silence or intimidate potential witnesses and to eliminate rivals in the multi-million dollar cocaine trafficking operation Savage ran in North Philadelphia.
Prior to hearing the tapes this morning, the jury heard autopsy reports on six of the murder victims, two women and four children killed in a firebombing authorities allege Savage ordered from prison.
On one of the tapes played later, Savage is heard apparently making references to the firebombing, telling a fellow inmate, "Don't nobody want to be in the next house." On the same tape, he talked about how the event could help build a street reputation.
The tapes came from a listening device hidden in Savage's prison cell. In all, during the 11-week trial, jurors heard about 300 secretly recorded conversations from prison bugs or from phone wiretaps. There was also testimony for dozens of witnesses, including Eugene Coleman, the one-time Savage associate whose family was killed in the Oct. 9, 2004, firebombing.
Coleman's mother, his infant son, his step-sister, and two nephews and a niece between the ages of 10 and 15 were killed in the blaze.
Another Savage associate, Lamont Lewis, testified during the trial that he and Robert Merritt firebombed the home of Marcella Coleman on orders from Savage. Those orders were relayed through Savage's sister, Kidada.
Merritt, 31, Kidada Savage, 30, and Steven Northington, 41, are co-defendants in the case. Northington is charged with two other murders, but not the firebombing. He and Merritt face possible death sentences. Kidada Savage could face life in prison.
The final tapes played for the jury today underscored the theme that the prosecution has presented throughout the trial. Authorities have used witnesses and Savage's own words to reinforce their depiction of the former boxer as a ruthless, uncaring drug kingpin who used fear, intimidation and murder to control his organization.
Fire was a method he frequently referred to in his conversations, including one in which he threatened an unnamed captain at the Federal Detention Center with death, laughing about how he wanted to chain him to a chair and set him afire and how he wanted to watch him dance "like James fuckin' Brown."
"Welcome to hell, bitch," Savage said he would tell the captain.
The jury also heard other tapes where Savage referred to the firebombing. On one he said, "I ain't sad they dead" of the victims, but quickly added, "I ain't killed them." Later in the same conversation, he said, "I can write my mom and tell her how much I love her. He (Coleman) can't never do that."
And on another tape he joked about how authorities should have provided Coleman and others who attended the funerals "barbecue sauce" that could have been poured "on them burnt bitches."
The final tape played for the jury was a poetic but frightening lament from Savage who described the "tears of rage" he felt each night for those who were cooperating and testifying against them.
"I'm dedicated to their death," he said.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.