Brooklyn Federal Court looked more like a music awards show red carpet as the Murder Inc. label money laundering trial finally got underway today (Nov. 16). Both the prosecution and defense presented opening arguments in the case while Ja Rule and Ashanti, among others, looked on.
Murder Inc. principals Irving and Christopher Lorenzo, better known as Irv and Chris Gotti, respectively, both looked confident as they entered the court. Irv even laughed and smiled as the prosecution made opening arguments.
The Lorenzo brothers had their fair share of supporters in the crowded courtroom, as their mother arrived with 16 people, including friends and other family members. The court room was so packed that two members of the Inc. entourage had to step out to make room for Ashanti and her mother/manager, Tina Douglas.
The prosecution’s opening arguments focused on the relationship between the Lorenzo brothers and Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, whom they claim provided the seed money for Murder Inc.
Prosecutor Sean Haran said McGriff is a well-known drug dealer that wanted to masquerade as a music executive, using the name “Ricky Coleman” as an alias. He also argued that B.J., a drug runner for McGriff and friend of Irv, introduced the two, stressing the fact that McGriff had drug runners delivering money to the label in large sums.
Haran added that McGriff never signed anything to prove he was an employee of Murder Inc. and that the Lorenzo brothers paid for several things on his behalf, including the rights to the film “Crime Partners.” He alleged that the Lorenzo brothers also bailed out one of McGriff’s drug runners for $50,000, and convinced Murder Inc. parent label Def Jam to buy the Crime Partners soundtrack from McGriff for $1 million.
In response, the defense tried to establish a more pure motive for Gotti’s creation of Murder Inc., arguing that he gained notoriety as a teenage DJ whose beats were sought out by such prominent artists as Run-D.M.C.’s Reverend Run. The defense claimed Irv didn’t know McGriff until the mid to late 1990s, and that the Inc. associated with him simply for street credibility.
Lawyers also attempted to poke holes in the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness, Phil Banks. They painted him as a repeat offender who has been convicted of both sexual assault and attempted assault with a firearm. He was also convicted of perjury, but cooperated when he got arrested and had to return to prison, they said.
Meet the Murder Inc trial players, read back stories, review case filings and comment at SOHH.com.