Orleans public defenders removed from 110er's gang case - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Orleans public defenders removed from 110er's gang case

Updated:
Criminal District Court in New Orleans  (File) Criminal District Court in New Orleans (File)
New Orleans, La. -

Under intense security, 15 attorneys showed up in court Friday to represent alleged members of the 110er's gang. New allegations have surfaced involving potential conflicts of interest.

It's been three months since an Orleans parish grand jury indicted 15 people allegedly involved in the 110er's gang. That set the stage for one of the biggest prosecutions in parish history, and some big challenges for local attorneys.

"As of today, our office is no longer representing any of the 110er's," said Derwyn Bunton with the Orleans Public Defenders Office.

Due to a myriad of conflicts, the Public Defenders Office is off the case.

"Because of the breadth of indictments," said Bunton, "a half-dozen were already being represented by our office. Then the DA's office disclosed about 15 witnesses were represented by our office and four victims were clients of our office."

Now 15 private attorneys have stepped up. "I volunteered for it, I'm happy to do it," said attorney Benjamin Sanders. "More needs to give back to the community, to get the system moving as quickly as possible."

In court Friday, there were more ethical issues. Prosecutor Alex Calenda challenged two more defense attorneys with having conflicts of interest.

"They allege the young man I represented in a whole other matter is in some way connected with this case, and there's a conflict," said attorney Eusi Phillips, who accused prosecutors of a courtroom ambush, a charge they flatly denied.

The judge set a new hearing in this complex case of alleged widespread gang activity for August 16 to sort out new allegations of conflicts.

During the 90-minute hearing, many of the defendants talked among themselves as they sat shackled in the jury box. Meantime, many of the guards in attendance admonished friends and family members not to talk with any of the defendants, or else they would be removed.

At some point, there will likely be some type of coordinated defense strategy among the defendants, charged with a list of crimes that include armed robbery, perjury and the murder of a 5-year-old girl, Brianna Allen. But for now, it's every man for himself.

"As of right now," Sanders said, "each attorney is trying to find out what his client's alleged involvement is... and whether they have anything to do with this case."

This could take a while.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you start seeing things go on on a Saturday," said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti, "because that's one of the few days when you know everybody won't have a conflict."

Prosecutors have until September 6 to turn over evidence in the case. No trial date has been set.

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