INDIANAPOLIS — Wiretapped phone conversations regarding the alleged murder-for-hire scheme concocted by leaders of a local drug ring took up most of the third day in the “Operation Law and Orders” jury trial.
The day started just like how the previous day ended, with Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Erik Collins taking to the stand Thursday and continuing to analyze dozens of wiretapped phone conversations between the four defendants – Michael O’Bannon, 34, Jason Reed, 50, Shaun Myers, 36, and Michael Jones, 37,- and local ring leader Reggie Balentine, 42, and drug distributor Pierre Riley, 51, of Macon, Georgia.
The state set aside a large portion of Thursday to talk about the murder-for-hire scheme that nearly got the investigation’s confidential informant killed in March 2018.
According to previous court documents in the investigation, it was alleged that O’Bannon was the victim of a drug robbery, and he believed his girlfriend’s father, a man nicknamed “KP,” was responsible.
Around the same time, Balentine and Riley began to believe that “KP” was an informant for the police, and Collins said that they, along with O’Bannon, conspired to hire two Georgia hitmen, Sirajuddin Abdul Qadir and Jamil Williamson, to drive to Kokomo and kill “KP.”
That plan was the topic of several of the phone conversations the state played Thursday afternoon between O’Bannon and Riley leading up to March 2, 2018.
The prosecution also brought into evidence on Thursday several phone records that indicated O’Bannon reached out to an Atlanta area telephone number on the morning of March 1, 2018, and that he then called Balentine that afternoon to let him know he officially made the call to the hitmen.
Qadir and Williamson, along with friend Cynthia Foster, then drove up to Kokomo and checked into the Quality Inn along Ind. 931 and East Lincoln Road, Collins told the court.
In a short testimony on Wednesday, Foster stated how she met O’Bannon at the hotel and stayed behind while O’Bannon, Qadir and Williamson left for several minutes, admitting that she wasn’t at all aware of the murder-for-hire scheme.
During that same time, police were conducting surveillance on the three men and noticed O’Bannon drive Qadir and Williamson to the informant’s residence, stop at a nearby Taco Bell for several minutes and then head back to the Quality Inn.
Police eventually pulled over the car near the hotel’s parking lot and discovered a loaded firearm in the vehicle. In another raid of Qadir and Williamson’s hotel room, officers also located several other firearms and black clothing recently purchased from Walmart.
And in two more separate conversations played in court between Balentine and Riley that occurred on the afternoon of March 2, 2018, it appeared to show the two men discussing the incident, with Riley saying O’Bannon should have never been in the same car with the hitmen but instead should have followed behind.
The state continues the evidence phase Friday. The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.