For gang member John Brooks Hall Duncan, a prosecutor telling a judge that Duncan threatened to kill three cops and four witnesses is a laughing matter.
Duncan chuckled as a packed courtroom heard how he threatened to execute anybody who crossed him.
“These are the names who needs to be exterminated,” Duncan wrote out on June 20, from the York County jail.
And when Duncan was sent to prison Thursday for 18 years for trying to smuggle his “hit list” out of the York County jail to fellow gang members on the outside, he cursed.
In and out of prison since age 17 and a documented member of the Folk Nation gang, Duncan pleaded guilty to seven charges of solicitation to commit a felony Thursday – in this case the felony was murder. Yet, Duncan pleaded under what is called an Alford plea, where he accepts that there is enough evidence to convict him — but admits nothing.
Duncan agreed to “where I would plead guilty, but I maintain my innocence.” He said that in court several times.
He said so while surrounded by four burly cops with stun guns and guns with bullets and while wearing a “shock collar” belt that is used by police and jailers in case a prisoner who is potentially dangerous needs to be jolted into submission.
The courtroom was electric, not from electricity (the collar wasn’t used) but because this man threatened to turn the courts into a slaughterhouse.
Despite Duncan claiming he is innocent, prosecutors and police spoke of the list that Duncan wrote on June 20 after he had been jailed for months for many alleged crimes, including stealing a machine gun and more from a police car, then bragging about it. Duncan also was accused of stabbing a gang rival after a fight, and other charges.
Prosecutor Chris Epting said Duncan’s plan was to get the list to fellow gang members on the outside before the police and witnesses – who told the cops about Duncan’s braggadocio and crimes of violence – could learn of it.
Duncan smiled as Epting talked of the plot in court.
The witnesses were former friends who told police about Duncan showing off the machine gun like it were a report card with A’s on it, and witnesses from the fight where police say Duncan stabbed a rival in a dispute. For ratting him out, Duncan tried to put out a death sentence on all four.
Duncan even tried to stare down the two detectives who told the court Thursday that their job is hard enough without being threatened with murder for trying to protect the public from people like Duncan. Judge Dan Hall ordered Duncan to look at him, not at the cops, whom Duncan had threatened to have executed.
Detectives Nick Schifferle and Grady Gonzales spoke in court about how they have been “shot at, spit on, kicked, punched, threatened,” and more, but the threats from Duncan rose to a new and frightening level for police, the witnesses and the community.
“Why should I have to die, so that he could seek revenge?” Schifferle told Judge Hall. “This adds to the thousand and one reasons already why it so dangerous to be a police officer these days.”
Gonzales, the other detective, spoke passionately about how he hopes the people of York County continue to “believe in us,” the cops, as they catch the Duncans of the world who steal and stab and threaten to kill.
For good measure, Duncan put on his hit list the unlucky cop who signed the affidavit for his arrest months ago.
Kevin Brackett, York County solicitor, brought up how Doug and Debbie London of Lake Wylie were executed in their home a year ago – allegedly by Charlotte gang members who sought to keep Doug London from testifying.
The response to such attacks and threats, Brackett told Judge Hall, must drop like an avalanche. Long sentences for killings and threats against witnesses should be a lesson not just to Duncan, but anyone who considers threatening cops and witnesses, Brackett said.
Duncan’s mother told the court she appreciates all that police do for public safety, and is “not excusing her son’s choices,” but said he suffers from bipolar disorder and has been in and out of hospitals and jails since age 11.
As part of a plea deal for the 18 years, prosecutors dismissed all other charges against Duncan.
But that was not enough for Duncan. When Judge Hall said 18 years in prison, Duncan called out, “18 years!” Then he cursed out loud. The jailers rushed him out of court.
The cops, Grady Gonzales and Nick Schifferle, did not smile as Duncan was sent off. But they did not quit, either.
The two walked out of the court, heads high, to help protect somebody else.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065