Alleged threats lead to inmate's isolation

By Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

EAST ST. LOUIS - A federal judge on Thursday barred an accused murderer from almost any contact with the world outside his jail cell after federal prosecutors said he used a smuggled cell phone and other means to get friends and family to hunt down and intimidate the witnesses against him.

In a court hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Scott said that Marcus "Butterhead" Powell was "desperate" to prevent witnesses from testifying at his sentencing hearing about the amount of crack cocaine that he had been involved in dealing.

Powell pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to two crack distribution charges.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, his sentence could be much longer if prosecutors can prove that he was dealing a large quantity of drugs. Before Thursday, prosecutors indicated they would ask for almost 34 years in prison. Scott said that she would now be seeking more time.

Powell is also still facing state charges of murder and attempted murder in the Oct. 7 fatal drive-by shooting that killed Delarrian Davis, 12, of Madison while the child was doing homework. Powell, who had allegedly been feuding with someone, was out on bail at the time on two counts of attempted murder after allegedly shooting and wounding Delarrian's mother and another woman in 2007.

On Thursday, Scott told U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan that Powell had obtained the identity of the witnesses against him, including a confidential witness, and enlisted friends, family and a suspected murderer to contact and threaten those witnesses or their relatives.

Scott said that in some cases, Powell ordered relatives and acquaintances to harm the witnesses, telling one woman to "whup" a witness.

In court filings in recent days, prosecutors say that Powell was using jail phones and a smuggled cell phone to text and call people outside jail. They say that he had a correctional officer at the Alton jail helping him. That employee, who is not named and has since resigned, picked up packages left at a rear door by Powell's girlfriends and warned Powell about searches, prosecutors claim.

Alton Police Chief Chris Sullivan did not return a voice mail and an e-mail seeking information about the case. Powell is now being held in Marion County.

Scott said that witnesses were now "scared to death" and becoming reluctant to testify, and that Powell's "never gonna stop."

Powell's lawyer, Terry Green, scoffed at the accusations. He said that he has listened to the recorded jailhouse phone calls and only heard "big talk," "cursing" and "nonsense."

He also said that prosecutors have no physical evidence.

"I don't think my client should be tossed in a hole," he told Reagan.

At the end of the hearing, Reagan ordered jail officials to bar Powell from receiving mail, phone calls or visits from anyone other than his lawyer.

Copyright 2009 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.

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