Trial's security affected by threats

Updated: March 8, 2010, 7:05 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Gang threats against the life of a man accused of shooting and killing Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams were specific and credible enough that authorities changed security measures and advised attorneys to be aware for their safety, a defense attorney said.

The threats reported to Denver authorities last March detailed plans for vehicles full of "Crip gang members" armed with AK-47s with orders to make Willie Clark "Swiss cheese" if he said anything in court, Clark's attorney, Darren Cantor, said Monday in explaining why his client won't testify on his own behalf.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Timothy Twining told District Judge Christina Habas that the threats were made in a case unrelated to Williams' slaying. Clark and two other men face murder charges in the December 2006 slaying of a key witness who was scheduled to testify in another case.

"I actually wanted to [testify] because I have nothing to hide," Clark told Habas. "But, I mean, I can't protect my family so why would I put myself in that situation?"

Habas told Clark: "I respect your decision not to testify," later adding that Clark didn't bring up the threats when he refused to testify until hearing all defense witnesses.

The details of the threat were passed along to Clark's defense attorneys in a memo, which wasn't immediately available Monday. Denver Sheriff's Capt. Frank Gale said a sheriff's deputy was told of the threat while working security at a nightclub frequented by suspected gang members, and that was passed along to prosecutors.

Gale said security measures, which include two security screenings to get into the courtroom and a ban of cameras on an entire floor of the Denver courthouse, are unrelated to the alleged threat.

Outside of court, Denver district attorney's spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough dismissed Cantor's characterization of a credible threat and said no arrests or charges resulted from an ensuing investigation. "The sum total of all of this was a memo," Kimbrough said.

Clark's refusal to testify came on the 11th day of testimony in which witnesses have been jailed for refusing to testify, with some saying they're too afraid. During the trial, two jurors have also been excused by Habas for unspecified reasons, leaving four alternates on the panel. Closing arguments could be heard as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Williams was in a limousine with other football players when he was shot on New Year's Day 2007. They had just left a nightclub where prosecutors say Williams' group got into an altercation with a group that included Clark, a suspected gang member who goes by the street name "Little Let Loose," or "Little Let." The altercation started inside the nightclub when a member of the Broncos players' entourage sprayed champagne on revelers celebrating the New Year.

Earlier in the trial, a witness who said he was a passenger in a white SUV that Clark was allegedly driving identified Clark as the shooter. The witness, Daniel "Ponytail" Harris, is under federal protection and Clark's attorneys have questioned his motives, saying he has gotten multiple plea deals for his testimony.

Defense attorneys say another man fired the shots that killed Williams.

On Monday, a man who investigators say intercepted a jailhouse letter implicating Clark in the shooting agreed to testify after refusing to do so earlier. He testified that he found the letter stuffed in a law book in a library meant for a co-defendant in the other murder case Clark is facing.

In that case, Kalonniann Clark, who is not related to Willie Clark, had been scheduled to testify in a drug case in 2005 when she was shot outside a nightclub. She survived that attempt on her life and was scheduled to testify against her alleged attacker when she was killed a day before a pretrial hearing in December 2006. Clark and two others face charges in that case.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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