Federal Grand Jury adds murder charge on Telly Hankton

Extra security lined the walls of a Federal Magistrate courtroom, as Telly Hankton and 12 other defendants pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges.

Hankton, once considered the city's most notorious criminal is already a convicted killer serving a life sentence for the murder of Darnell Stewart.

An Orleans Parish jury convicted Hankton three years ago of killing Stewart outside of the Jazz Daiquiri Lounge on South Claiborne Ave. in 2008.

The feds had previously indicted Hankton for that murder, plus the killing of Jesse Reed.

Prosecutors now say Hankton also gunned down Darvin Bessie in 2006 on MLK Blvd.

The new charge accuses Hankton of murder in the aid of racketeering and causing death through the use of a firearm.

The superseding indictment, in all, charges 13 defendants.

That includes Hankton's mother, Shirley, several of Hankton's family members and alleged associates.

Feds say they were involved in a deep-rooted crime organization that operated in the Uptown and Central City areas since 1996.

Hankton is described as the alleged ring leader.

"It would seem obvious that it's been going on for a while, but we know from previously press conferences, I can recall Leon Cannizzaro and Mayor Mitch Landrieu standing up and talking about this group and this man, which doesn't happen every day, " says FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.

According to the 24 count indictment, members of the organization ran a violent drug ring.

It states members murdered rival drug dealers, intimidated witnesses and even murdered a witness' family member in an effort to obstruct justice.

Five defendants, including Hankton, could face the death penalty.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will make the decision on whether local prosecutors will be able to seek the death penalty.

We understand there will be a meeting in Washington with federal prosecutors and defense attorneys on August 4th concerning the case.

From there, Attorney General Holder will make his decision.

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