Inner City Press

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYTAzerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

Share |   

Follow on TWITTER

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube

More: InnerCityPro
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

In SDNY Closing of Trial of James Felton Bronx Crack Sales To Promesa Addicts Cited

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope, Photos

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 18 – In the trial of James Felton, accused among other things of killing Marvin Harris on the corner of 175th Street and Monroe Avenue in The Bronx on June 11, 2016, the jury on June 12, 2019 - three years and one day later - was shown a grainy video of the lead up to that shooting, then of another one in December 2016. Presiding was
U.S. District Court for the Southern District Judge William H. Pauley III.

 On June 18 in the government's summation, Assistant US Attorney Frank J. Balsemello said that James Felton "is a cold blooded murderer." He described how James Felton provided muscle, or gun play, to allow his younger relatives to sell crack in 240 East 175th Street, adding that it was lucrative because it was so near the rehab center PROMESA -- who as Inner City Press long ago reported had its bookkeeper shot and killed on East Tremont Avenue.

  Balsemello's multi-media presentation used audio from prison phone calls ("you have one minute remaining") and pole camera footage of the whole gang dealing drugs to those PROMESA customers. The jury perked up at the complaints of a resident of 240, about having to go to work walking past all these guys - and a lone female, Ginger a/k/a George - dealing crack.

  The argument the government appears to be trying to fight off is that James Felton was somehow defending not only his drug turf but himself, or his son James Diaz a/k/a Chunky. Inner City Press will have more on this.

 On June 17, the fifth day of the trial, proceedings ended with Judge Pauley setting the rules for closing arguments. The government with get an hour and 45 minutes, then a 15 minute reply by Assistant US Attorney Matthew Hellman.

  The defense, which Judge Pauley said pointedly knows it can pace around the room, gets an hour and a half. The docket reflects that until right before trial, Ms Jean Barrett was going to be among James Felton's two lawyers. There's a longer story here, soon to be told.

Earlier on June 17 an NYPD Detective who arrested Felton at 2228 Adams Place testified how Felton's pinging cell phone led them there, and about the gun they found under a duffle bag a closet in Apartment Six David. But the monitors at the defense table, and in the jury box and gallery, did not work.

  Judge Pauley told the jury that back in the old days, lawyers used to hand out photographs of exhibits; the Assistant US Attorney instead held a copy out and walked slowly in front of the jury box while the NYPD detective described putting Felton's two phones back in his pocket for transfer to the 46th Precinct.

 There followed testimony about a number of short phone calls made on 11 December 2016 when Benny White (real name Jose Morales) was shot and killed - for which James Felton's son James Diaz a/k/a Chunky has already pled guilty, albeit requesting a ten year sentence. We'll have more on this.

 In the run-up to the trial James Felton's lawyer Lloyd Epstein told the government and
Judge Pauley that "we're dealing with a neighborhood here where people are talking about people getting killed, that in neighborhoods where some of us live, we might talk about how Johnny was accepted at Yale or, you know, generally is going on to social work school, but here, this is what people talk about."

  But Epstein's point at the final pre-trial conference on 22 February 2019, beyond trashing the Mount Hope neighborhood, was to try to exclude the introduction into evidence of some prison phone calls. He said, "They talk about the cookouts at Rikers Island, they talk about the NBA, they talk about getting sneakers for little kids." Yes, that too. Though it is not what is being heard in the SDNY trial. Watch this site.

 On June 14 cooperating witness Andre Felton described how James Felton told him he had shot Benny White, and how he took the two guns and threw them in a river. When James Felton returned from Massachusetts, Andre Felton let him stay in his apartment in 2228 Adams Place.

  The government put into evidence photographs of that apartment, with vacuum sealed bags for selling marijuana, a heroin spoon and bags, a digital scale and a gun (which Andre Felton showed to James Felton, offering that he could use it.)

  Andre Felton said that alongside selling drugs he was working as a concierge at a building in Manhattan - full time - until in a traffic stop he was found with 10 grams of cocaine. Now he is cooperating.

  The government said they may have another cooperating witness on Monday, and may close their case then or on Tuesday. The defense may recall witness Ezekiel Burley for some questions then put on a "short case" "probably" not including James Felton taking the stand.

  Judge Pauley said he will send them a draft jury charge later on June 14, and asked the government to submit a proposed jury form. Judge Pauley does not send the exhibits into the jury room but only a list, from which the jurors can make requests.

  Just before the jury was released for the weekend there was a sidebar and instruction. As the government asked Andre Felton about his offer to help get James Felton a lawyer, the defense asked to speak drowned out by white noise. Afterward Judge Pauley told the jury that James Felton's lawyers are court appointed and are paid by the United States. If there was any doubt.

  On June 13 another cooperating witness, Gonzalez, was cross examined about his question for a 5K letter from the prosecution and how far he would go to get out from under the otherwise applicable 45 year minimum sentence. Gonzalez sold crack in the area; when his testimony was over he was led back into the cell block by two US Marshals.

  The jury filed out and those in the gallery including Inner City Press, some neighborhood resident including one with a small child and some from the prosecutor's office were told to wait in the courtroom until they all went down on the elevator.

  In the lull Felton's lawyers argued for the admissibility for jailhouse recorded calls showing that Felton had gotten a construction job. Judge Pauley said he would think about it overnight, but that it seemed clear Felton knew he was being recorded, impacting reliability.

 Felton's lawyer said those on the call talked about "everything." Judge Pauley noted that they also sold drugs under the eye of multiple pole cameras. The trial will continue on Friday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm then break for the weekend. Inner City Press has requested exhibits. Watch this site.

Earlier on June 13 the prosecution put on the witness stand a video expert who has enhanced and audio synched the videos, with the gunshots audible. A man already dying on the sidewalk was shot, again, and spasmed. The jury leaned forward. Next up was a witness from T-Mobile law enforcement relations, about responding to a warrant.

  It is not only emails and text messages that trip up today's defendants, as in the USA v. Ahuja and Shor trial across Pearl Street. Now there are so many surveillance cameras that shootings like this are captured from multiple angles, and can be enhanced. The jury can identify with those on the sidewalk running for cover.

 Overnight the prosecution wrote to Judge Pauley to suggest a jury instruction that "the death penalty is not a potential punishment for the defendant in this case." It's come to that.

 Back on June 12 there was the testimony by Ezekiel Burley, hoping for a 5K letter for cooperating, turned to the shooting of Benny White and another in December 2016 in the same neighborhood. The dispute about about who was robbing the drug sales workers.

A girlfriend was left to "clean up" the apartment of drugs and baggies and a gun, which Burley said he "threw in a lake by my house."

  Burley in early 2017 got shot himself in a barbershop on 175th and Morris Avenue. He was interviewed by police while on morphine, he told the jury. He told only what he thought they had on video. Later he proffered by only partially. Finally he told the prosecutors he gave the gun to Felton in June 2016. Now his faces life in prison - or as he said under the "new law," only 70 years. But he could get less for cooperation. What will the jury think?

  Felton's defense team later on June 12 asked Burley if Felton hadn't in fact tried to tell Chunky to reach a deal rather than fight, and hadn't had concerns beyond drug sales.

  This stood at odds with that Felton's lawyer Ms. Jean D. Barrett of Ruhnke & Barrett said at the final pre-trial conference on February 22, 2019, Transcript at 8, that "our understanding is that this is a neighborhood where people sell drugs, and there's a lot of violence in this neighborhood. This is what this neighborhood is like all the time... It's just what the neighborhood is and what everybody in the neighborhood is doing." Really? Inner City Press will continue to cover this trial, even without exhibits. See @InnerCityPress and the new @SDNYLIVE.


Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Click here to become a patron.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

Box 20047, Dag Hammarskjold Station NY NY 10017

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

 Copyright 2006-2019 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] for