Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Snitch Confession' Spreads across the City; A Prosecutor Says One Drug Suspect Used a Public Record Law to Intimidate Another

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Snitch Confession' Spreads across the City; A Prosecutor Says One Drug Suspect Used a Public Record Law to Intimidate Another

Article excerpt


Authorities said both men broke the law as part of a cocaine-trafficking ring that did hundreds of thousands of dollars of business in Jacksonville.

One of them turned on some of his co-defendants, pleading guilty in exchange for a legal deal.

But authorities said the other man kept quiet. Until it came to getting revenge on the man who turned on him.

Then authorities said he let the legal system work for him, too.

Law-enforcement officials said accused drug trafficker Obie Johnson III used Florida's public record law to get a copy of a recording of the cooperating witness' police interview. Then authorities claim he put "hundreds" of copies in the streets.

Now the State Attorney's Office has charged Johnson with witness tampering. They claim he put the other man's life and possibly the lives of his family members in danger by giving out audio recordings to people in the city's "drug culture" at a time when the "stop snitching" movement is popular.

"Clearly his intention is to intimidate this man into shutting his mouth," Assistant State Attorney Margie Mittleman said Tuesday. "... It's a little mini-terrorism going on, all through legal channels because I have to disclose statements through the legal process."

"If something happens to this witness, I'm not sure how I could live with myself as a prosecutor."

On the streets, people are calling the recording "The Snitch Confession," said Jimmy Branton, the 43-year-old owner of the stereo installation shop Quad City Sound, who has heard parts of it.

Branton said he first heard about the recording Thursday, when several customers brought copies into his business.

Authorities learned about it soon after that. One of the people who heard the recording that day told The Times-Union he alerted the witness about the recording and the witness contacted police.

On Friday morning, police came to his shop, Branton said. That evening, authorities rearrested Johnson.

Police wrote on Johnson's arrest report that the 32-year-old man owns a computer store and would be able to duplicate the recording. The report also said that an unidentified witness told police that Johnson made copies and gave them to another man who then passed them out, including at Branton's North Main Street business.

Authorities said a group of 10 to 15 people gathered to listen to the recording at the business and many made negative comments about the witness.

Branton said Tuesday he didn't know Johnson, but did know some of the people that were the subject of the conversation during the police interview -- a recording that he said is "spreading like wildfire" throughout the city.

By law, authorities must turn over evidence against defendants that they plan to use at a trial before it starts. …

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