On Friday, March 15, the nine-woman, three-man jury found both men guilty of first-degree murder and five lesser felonies in the shooting death of the 21-year-old Kingston resident. With the verdict, the jury affirmed District Attorney Holley Carnright’s claim that King’s murder was the culmination of a conspiracy which reached from the Ulster County Jail, where Mattis’ brother was locked up awaiting trial for a shooting which King witnessed to Coxsackie State Prison where high-ranking gang members gave the “green light” for the hit to a dark corner of Cedar Street where King fell mortally wounded with a bullet behind the ear.
Through five days of testimony, jurors heard Carnright lay out his case — Griffin, Mattis and other members of Kingston’s “Sex Money Murder” Bloods set killed King for breaking the code of silence by testifying against Mattis’ brother, Jarrin “Phat Boy” Rankin, about a Nov. 21, 2009, shooting on Henry Street. Carnright’s argument was backed up by two members of the conspiracy: Amanda “Blazer Bitch” Kelley, who drove the getaway car, and Rankin’s ex-girlfriend Dametria “Meaty” Kelley, who relayed messages (which were recorded by jail staff and played in court) from the jailed Rankin to gang members on the street urging the crew to identify the witness and shut him up. Carnright also produced video from the Cedar Street Deli where Griffin, Mattis and alleged conspirator Jermain “Maino” Nicholas are seen with King moments before he was shot and Mattis’ own statement to police in which he admits shooting King, telling cops he feared that King was about to reach for a weapon.
On the last day of testimony, Mattis and Griffin had their chance to respond. Mattis, slightly built, clean cut and with a cheerful demeanor given the circumstances, denied ever joining a gang but freely admitted associating with SMM members including Griffin, Nicholas and alleged conspirator Rondy “Ski” Russ. When, on cross examination, Carnright asked him about his association with an alleged youth gang called “Dipset” in 2004, Mattis smiled and replied that the group was simply an association of neighborhood friends who took the name from a popular rap group.
“Dipset is a rap group and we all thought we were rappers,” Mattis said. “That’s where that came from.”
Griffin, by contrast, whom Carnright described as the gang’s “Big Homie” or boss, admitted that he had been “affiliated” with Sex Money Murder since his youth in the gang’s home turf of the Bronx. When Carnright asked him about his tattoos of a five-pointed star and the words “Sex Money Murder,” Griffin confirmed that they were Bloods gang symbols. When Carnright asked about gang hand-signs (which appear in a series of photographs of the gang introduced at the trial) Griffin responded by giving the district attorney, and the jury, a lesson in the proper hand forms to signal membership in the gang.
But Griffin denied a central prosecution argument that Sex Money Murder was organized along paramilitary lines with a strict hierarchy and firm rules. Griffin said that the formal structure prevailed in state prisons, but on the streets the gang operated more “like a family.”
“There is no big conspiracy thing the way you’re making it out,” Griffin told Carnright under cross examination. “Because that’s not the way it works.”
Griffin also admitted selling cocaine and “everything I could get my hands on” in the past. But, Griffin said, even though he still associated with gang members, he denied taking part in any “gang activity” after he was released from prison in 2007 after serving four years for attempted burglary and coercion.
“I came home a married man. I got a wife and kids,” Griffin said. “(Gangs are) not my life no more.”
‘Deadin’ that beef’
Testifying about the events of Feb. 9, 2010, both men claimed that they were at Griffin’s home at 10 Pine St. with Miller (While Kelley waited in the car) around 6:30 p.m., just 10 minutes before King was shot. Griffin said that he had asked his friends to come by and bring him a cell phone because his wife had confiscated his during an argument. A call came in to Miller’s phone (the prosecution claimed that the call came from Nicholas, who had just spotted King at the Cedar Street Deli). Mattis testified that he was told that he needed to get to Cedar Street quickly. Griffin claims that he tagged along because he wanted to buy some loose cigarettes and take a break from the argument with his wife.
At the deli, Mattis said he met up with Nicholas, who introduced him to King. The prosecution claims that gang members spent months looking for King (who moved to Lake George shortly after testifying against Rankin to a grand jury) and even went so far as to send Miller to Coxsackie State Prison to meet up with alleged gang member Ashton “Ashmatic” Dixon, who relayed approval for the hit from higher-ranking Bloods in the prison. But Mattis testified that he only had a vague notion that King and his brother were having some kind of dispute. Mattis said that he walked down Cedar Street with King discussing the beef and making peace.
“I’m right there putting everything at peace in front of everyone. We’re deadin’ everything, we’re deadin’ that beef,” said Mattis, describing the street diplomacy. “And I’m the man that was doing that.”
While Mattis was talking to King, Griffin claimed that he was just standing outside the deli smoking a cigarette bummed from Nicholas because, he said, he was not allowed to smoke in Miller’s car. After finishing the smoke, Griffin said, he got back in the car with Nicholas, Kelley and Miller. Making a U-turn on Cedar Street and heading back towards Pine, Griffin said he heard gunshots, saw Mattis running down the street and signaled Miller to stop the car and let him in.
“It was like ‘oh snap’ there go Little T, pull over,” Griffin testified. “Everybody was shocked. It was just like, there was these gunshots. Nobody was talking about who was shooting, it wasn’t even at that point.”
Mattis, meanwhile, said that upon completing the parley with King, he began walking up Cedar Street toward Clinton Avenue “to go see a female.” He and King were headed in the same direction. As they crossed over to the corner of Prospect and Cedar, Mattis told the jury that he heard shots, spun around, caught glimpse of a man in a dark-colored sweatshirt with the hood pulled tight around his face pointing a gun and took off running, ducking between cars. When Miller’s car pulled up, Mattis said, he jumped in and didn’t look back.
Mattis’ most explosive claim during his turn on the witness stand involved his questioning by Kingston Police Detective Eric Van Allen. Mattis claimed that he was bewildered when police showed up at his father’s apartment in Poughkeepsie at 3 a.m. the morning after the shooting.
“I started flipping, I wanted to know what’s going on, I thought it was my parole,” said Mattis, who was released from prison three weeks before King’s murder after serving five years for robbery and assault. “They were not giving me any information.”
Mattis claims that he had no intention of talking during his interrogation at KPD headquarters and did not believe the detective’s claim that Miller, Kelley and Griffin had made statements implicating him in the murder (Griffin, in fact, was not arrested until Feb. 13 when police tracked him to an apartment in Newburgh). Then, Mattis claimed Van Allen “rushed” him, placed his hands around his neck and choked him until he nearly passed out while demanding that he confess.
“At that point I got my thoughts together and I’m ready to say anything to get that man to stop choking me,” said Mattis.
Van Allen denied on the stand that he used any coercion or intimidation in his questioning of Mattis.
Mattis claims that Van Allen returned with KPD gang expert Bob Henry who demanded that he incriminate Griffin and Nicholas. Mattis said that he refused.
“I just took everything they wanted me to say and put it on myself, because I was forced to,” said Mattis.
In his summation, Griffin’s defense attorney John Cobb attacked the credibility of Miller and Kelley, noting that both girls were testifying in exchange for leniency for their own role in the conspiracy. He also noted that neither Kelley, Miller nor Mattis had been conclusively identified as gang members and wondered why, if the shooting was a gang hit, it took place on a busy street.
“They take along carload of witnesses and drive up on a busy street,” said Cobb. “I don’t know how gangs kill, but is that really how it’s done, in front of about 40 witnesses?”
Mattis’ attorney, James Winslow, stressed to the jury that the evidence that his client was a gang member was nearly non-existent.
“The only thing he’s got going against him is the people he grew up with, and his brother,” said Winslow.
Carnright wrapped up his case in a dramatic fashion, starting off by replaying the 911 call reporting the shooting (which appeared on a monitor with a blood-red background) and peppering his summation with readings from transcripts of phone calls from Rankin to friends and conspirators.
The district attorney also tried to turn the absence of Griffin’s name from the phone calls, and from Mattis, Miller and Kelley’s initial statements to police, from a weakness in the case to a damning piece of evidence.
“They would talk about this one, they would talk about that one, the only one they would not talk about was this guy, the Big Homie,” said Carnright, pointing to Griffin. “That is an indication of frightened they were, and how powerful this man is. There was no way they were going to throw G-Money into the mix.”
In the jury’s hands
On Friday, April 15, after receiving lengthy and detailed instructions from County Court Judge Don Williams, the jury began deliberations around 11:30 a.m. Sometime after deliberations began, the jury requested a look at the evidence and readbacks of Miller’s and Kelley’s testimony. At 4:45 p.m., while the court stenographer was still preparing the readbacks (to delete questions and answers which had been stricken from the record), a note from the jury room indicated that the jurors no longer needed the material and had reached a verdict.
Mattis and Miller, still in civilian clothes but, for the first time during the trial, handcuffed, were led back into the courtroom where a crowd of family and supporters packed the middle of the gallery while King’s family sat off to the side grasping hands. Mattis entered the courtroom flanked by hulking members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team and repeating the words “This is it, this is it, this is it.”
After issuing a stern warning to courtroom visitors to restrain themselves following the verdict, the jury was brought and the foreman entered the verdict. It was litany of “guilty,” repeated a dozen times.
As the jury filed out, one audience member called out “I love you” to the defendants while another sarcastically remarked “Van Allen, love you,” to the detective who was present in the gallery. Mattis’ father, also named Trevor Mattis, stood to ask Williams if he could make a statement, a request that the judge gently, but firmly denied.
Griffin remained silent as he was led from the courtroom. But Mattis paused to tell Carnright, “You’re good,” and make an apology of sorts to the King family. “I apologize if y’all think I did anything,” Mattis called out. “My condolences.”
Outside the courthouse, King’s family left quickly without responding to questions from a quartet of reporters. But Mattis’ family was vocal in the outrage over what they considered an unjust verdict. Some remarked on the makeup of the jury, which was all white and appeared to not have a single member under age 45 (Mattis is 23, Griffin is 30 and both are black).
“It was an all-white jury, I don’t think that was right,” said Sharon Flemming, who described herself as a close friend of the elder Trevor Mattis. “They didn’t really have nothing on this boy, they choked him into making him confess.”
Other family members repeated a claim made by Kelley (who testified that she heard it second-hand) and by Winslow in his summation, that Van Allen was the one who spread word on the streets of Kingston that King was a witness against Rankin.
“It was all over the street,” said Mattis’ sister, Sylvia Mattis. “The Kingston police killed C.J. just as much as whoever it was that shot him.” (Carnright said that there is absolutely no evidence that Van Allen compromised King’s confidentiality as a witness and strong evidence to the contrary).
Mattis and Griffin are due to be sentenced on May 6. Both men face life in prison without the possibility of parole. Meanwhile Nicholas, Russ and Rankin (who remain jailed) still face conspiracy charges for their role in King’s murder. Carnright said trials for the three would likely be scheduled soon and defense attorneys would likely rely on transcripts and evidence from the murder trial to formulate their strategy. Kelley and Miller still face charges of criminal facilitation, but under the terms of their deal with Carnright, neither woman is expected to serve prison time for their role in the conspiracy.
Unwelcome gesture nets felony charge for woman
The presence of a dozen state court officers and Ulster County sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom did not, apparently, deter a Kingston woman from trying to intimidate a prosecution witness while she testified at the Griffin-Mattis murder trial last week.
Police declined to identify the victim of the alleged threatening gesture, but on Tuesday April 12, while a visibly shaken Dametria Kelley gave testimony implicating Trevor Mattis and Gary Griffin in the conspiracy to murder Charles King Jr., members of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team quietly removed Cynthia M. Pompey, 42, of Springbrook Village from the courtroom and placed her in handcuffs.
Pompey was charged with felony intimidating a witness and sent to the Ulster County Jail on $10,000 bail. According to police, Pompey made threatening gestures in an attempt to frighten Kelley. Police did not specify the gesture, but two sources familiar with the case said, variously, that Pompey made a gesture indicating a pistol to her head or held up two fingers behind her ear symbolizing in gang-code “two [bullets] behind the ear.”
Ulster County Undersheriff Frank Faluotico, who supervised the heavy security presence at the courthouse, said that a member of the sheriff’s office noticed the alleged gesture. Faluotico did not specify who spotted the alleged intimidation, but members of the SERT, as well as investigators from the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team and Faluotico himself were present in the courtroom throughout the trial. Faluotico said that Pompey was discreetly asked to step into the hallway before she was arrested to avoid a courtroom incident which could disrupt the trial.
“We did it as quietly as we could,” said Faluotico. “Nobody even picked up on it.”
A woman who identified herself as Pompey’s sister stood outside the courthouse that same afternoon seeking written statements from courtroom observers attesting that they had not witnessed any threatening gestures. The woman, who did not give her name, claimed that her sister was merely scratching her head and was completely unfamiliar with gang signs.
Jesse J. Smith