Trial Begins For Kaboni Savage


As a federal prosecutor on Monday laid out a chilling case against Kaboni Savage, a once-feared North Philadelphia drug kingpin now on trial for 12 murders, some jurors looked pained by what they heard during the first day’s proceedings.

Savage, who could receive the death penalty, at times smiled as he whispered to his attorney, Christian J. Hoey. Savage, 37, jotted pages of notes on a yellow legal pad as Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer told the jurors of the murders the defendant had allegedly committed, of the slayings he’s accused of ordering and of the threats he’d allegedly made against the lives of his enemies. Among the victims were five relatives and a friend of Eugene “Twin” Coleman, a former drug associate of Savage who was the federal government’s star witness against the drug kingpin at his 2005 drug trial. Savage was convicted and sentenced to 30 years.

To stop Coleman from testifying, Troyer said, Savage – while locked up awaiting his drug trial – put out the order for Coleman’s mother’s house to be firebombed. The Oct. 9, 2004, blaze at the home on 6th Street near Allegheny Avenue killed Coleman’s mother, Marcella Coleman, 54, his son, Damir Jenkins, 15 months, and four others. Kidada Savage, 30, the defendant’s sister, helped set up the attack, and it was carried out by Savage associates Robert Merritt, 31, and Lamont Lewis, 35, prosecutors contend. Kidada Savage, Merritt and Steven Northington, 40, are being tried with Kaboni Savage. Lewis has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and will testify against the defendants in exchange for a sentence that could range from 40 years to life in prison. If convicted, Kaboni Savage, Merritt and Northington could face the death penalty. Kidada Savage could receive a life sentence. Troyer played conversations between the defendant and associates that the government recorded using bugs placed in his jail cell. In one conversation, the jury heard Savage laughing and celebrating the deaths of Coleman’s family. “They were all rats. Even the dog was a rat,” Savage said.

In another, Savage joked that someone should have poured barbecue sauce on the arson victims. Defense attorney Hoey told the jurors that as horrible as Savage’s words were, they were just rants from a man frustrated at being locked up. He cautioned the jury not to believe the testimony of Coleman, Lewis and other government witnesses, whom he painted as ruthless criminals who killed people while Savage sat behind bars. Lewis, he said, killed 11 people including the Coleman family and could have gotten 75 life sentences if not for his deal with the feds. “This is the fella the government made a deal with to go after Mr. Savage?” Hoey asked. “Without him, we’re not here.” The trial is expected to last several months.