Chester County defense attorney Christian Hoey is in.
Veteran Philadelphia defense lawyer Christopher Warren is out.
And convicted drug kingpin Kaboni Savage has withdrawn his request to represent himself in a racketeering-murder case that could carry the death sentence.
Those were the developments yesterday in the high-profile drug-trafficking case wending its way toward trial, probably next year.
During a short hearing in U.S. District Court, Judge R. Barclay Surrick granted Savage’s request to replace Warren and tapped Hoey, of the Paoli law firm Rubino & Hoey, to represent him.
Warren, who represented Savage in a 2005 drug-trafficking case, patted Savage on the back and wished him “good luck” as he left the courtroom.
Before the hearing, Warren said that he was disappointed that Savage wanted to replace him and that he thought he could win the case.
Surrick pointed out that Savage had asked to have Warren named his counsel when he was indicted on the latest charges in April. But the relationship apparently soured in recent months.
Warren said Savage refused to see him last week when he went to the Metropolitan Corrections Center in Manhattan, where his former client is jailed. Savage, he said, had filed a motion to represent himself.
Savage, in letters to the judge, had complained about his inability to meet with his lawyers (a capital-punishment expert is also assigned to the case) and asked to act as his own lawyer.
In appointing Hoey, Surrick said he also would arrange for Savage to be transported to the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia for two days each month so he could consult with his lawyers in person.
Savage said he would accept those changes and withdraw his motion to act as his own lawyer.
Shackled and handcuffed, Savage nodded and smiled at several friends and relatives at the hearing. Unlike a hearing last month, at which he alleged he was the target of racial profiling and a legal lynching by investigators and prosecutors he described as Nazis, he had little to say to the judge.
But as he was leaving the courtroom in the custody of federal marshals, and after Surrick left the bench, Savage looked back at his relatives, smiled, and said, “Going back to the slave quarters.”
Savage was sentenced to 30 years in prison after his conviction on drug-trafficking charges in 2005.
While he was serving that sentence, he and three codefendants were charged with drug dealing, witness intimidation, and murder in an indictment returned in April.
Between 1998 and 2003, according to the pending indictment, Savage oversaw a drug network that dumped millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine into North Philadelphia and used fear, violence, and murder to eliminate rivals and potential witnesses.
Prosecutors have indicated they will ask the Justice Department to approve a request to seek the death penalty.
Savage is accused of playing a role in 11 of the 12 murders in the indictment.
Among other things, he is charged with ordering the firebombing of a North Sixth Street rowhouse where the mother and infant son of a cooperating witness lived. Two women and four children, ages 15 months to 15 years, died in that blaze.
It was, authorities allege, one of the most wanton examples of witness intimidation in city history.