OAKLAND -- Four men were ordered to trial Wednesday in an alleged conspiracy to murder two amateur rappers over threats in a YouTube video, a plot that Oakland police uncovered while investigating the fatal shooting of an 8-year-old girl last year.
Authorities say Joseph Carroll, a former suspect in the July 17 East Oakland shooting that killed would-be third-grader Alaysha Carradine, was in Texas in September 2013 when he tried to arrange the killings of two Oakland men who insulted and threatened him and his brother in a rap video.
The suspected conspiracy was presented in court through cellphone conversations between Carroll and his purported co-conspirators that Oakland police recorded in a wiretap operation launched in the wake of the investigation into Alaysha's death.
A judge in January dismissed murder charges that had been filed against Carroll for lack of evidence to authorities' claim that Carroll arranged the shooting that killed Alaysha and wounded two other children and a grandmother in revenge for the killing of Carroll's 26-year-old cousin Jermaine Davis earlier that day in Berkeley.
Antiown Ramon York, charged with murder in Davis' death, is the father of the two children who survived the shooting, though he had not been a part of their lives for a long time before their sleepover with Alaysha was ambushed by gunfire.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office is expected to announce later this month whether it is going to seek the death penalty against the alleged shooter, Carroll's former co-defendant, Darnell Williams.
Carroll's attorney Ernie Castillo argued in court last week that police cobbled together the murder conspiracy case with "flimsy evidence" to justify their wiretaps after "they ended up with nothing" against Carroll during the investigation into Alaysha's death.
While defense attorneys contend that the recorded phone calls failed to prove that there was any agreement or plan -- specific or implied -- to kill the two Oakland rappers, prosecutor Luis Marin argues that they show that Carroll was a "puppet master" who directed Emando Roos, 36, Travon Wilson, 28, and Joseph Connors, 28, to carry out the killings.
Police said they were surveilling the group on Sept. 10, when Wilson went by an Iris Street address provided by Carroll where the targets were supposedly present. On Sept. 20, Wilson, Roos and Connors went to a party at Club Randevu in Oakland, where Connors was caught with a loaded gun, because they believed at least one of the targets was going to be there.
On both occasions, police swarmed the locations to thwart any violence, according to testimony. Defense attorneys argue that nothing was going to happen and questioned why police did not warn the alleged targets of the murder plot if they thought they were in real danger.
The defendants face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. They return to court April 23.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.