Mayor's former son-in-law to spend life in prison

Feds: Tremayne Graham ordered killing of a government witness; mayor's daughter under investigation by IRS

Last week, a federal judge in Greenville, S.C., sentenced Tremayne Graham to spend the rest of his life in prison for his leadership role in a massive cocaine ring — and his sentencing hearing offered stunning information concerning a revenge slaying he allegedly arranged in Atlanta.

Testimony in the April 17 hearing also described the alleged protection extended to Graham by his then-mother-in-law, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, when he was originally jailed on the drug charges.

"The mayor would pull some strings, and he would be right back out of jail in the Atlanta area," one of Graham's co-defendants, Scott King, testified, according to the Greenville News.

The mayor's spokeswoman, Beverly Isom, declined to comment on King's testimony and all other allegations relating to the prosecution. "We don't think it is fair to ask us to respond to third-party accusations at a sentencing for people involved in this or any criminal case," Isom wrote in an e-mail to CL.

The hearing also revealed that Franklin's daughter, Kai Franklin Graham, is under investigation to determine what she knew about her then-husband's criminal organization.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Moore in Greenville would not elaborate on the probe. But IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent Wayne Wright testified at Tremayne Graham's sentencing that both his agency and the U.S. attorney's office are investigating Kai Franklin Graham. What's more, a court filing in the case describes her as a "straw purchaser" for Atlanta luxury-car dealership 404 Motorsports. The dealership was owned by Tremayne Graham and King, and was allegedly used to launder dirty cash.

"It was losing money," Moore says of the now-closed Cheshire Bridge Road dealership that supplied customized Hummers, Jaguars and Ferraris to high-rollers such as music producer Jermaine Dupri and Atlanta Brave Andruw Jones. "[King and Graham] kept it afloat with drug money."

Court records identify Graham as a "major drug dealer" with close ties to multistate cocaine empire the Black Mafia Family and related drug ring the Sin City Mafia. Both Graham and King, along with 11 other defendants, were accused of moving at least 500 kilograms of cocaine from California to Atlanta, where most of the defendants lived. The cocaine was then delivered to Greenville.

But when one of Graham's couriers was arrested – the only person, according to Moore, who Graham believed would implicate him in the drug ring – Graham allegedly ordered him killed.

Graham jumped bond about seven months after he was indicted – and less than two months after co-defendant Ulysses Hackett and Hackett's girlfriend, 24-year-old Spelman graduate Misty Carter, were gunned down while sleeping in Carter's Highland Avenue townhome.

At the sentencing hearing, King testified that after the deaths of Carter and Hackett, Graham moved into the mayor's home because he wanted to give police the impression that he was afraid for his life, the Greenville News reported.

When Graham disappeared in late October 2004, he was out on bond under the condition that he be confined to the $630,000 Marietta home he shared with his wife. But after he cut his ankle monitor and fled, Kai Franklin Graham divorced her husband, who turned up in California a month after the divorce was final. He had hooked up with King, his longtime friend and fellow fugitive, and their alleged "boss" and supplier, Sin City Mafia leader Jerry Davis. Davis' crew worked closely, both in Atlanta and L.A., with the Black Mafia Family, whose cocaine enterprise and violent proclivities were the subject of a three-part CL series published last year.

A multi-agency hunt for Graham, King and Davis eventually landed all three men behind bars. Once they were locked up, King began to describe to the feds the role Graham allegedly played – not just in the drug trade, but in the homicides.

"King will testify that Graham was very concerned that Hackett would cooperate and testify against him, and that Graham had a number of conversations with King about the need to have Hackett murdered," court documents state. "Graham ultimately made statements to King indicating that he arranged for this murder through Jerry Davis."

At the sentencing hearing, King gave the same version of events. His testimony could have repercussions in Atlanta, where the unsolved double homicide has frustrated investigators. "I would definitely say that it's a break I've been waiting for," says Atlanta police Detective Mark Cooper, who's worked the case for two-and-a-half years.

Cooper says Atlanta police and the U.S. attorney's offices in Atlanta and Greenville are considering filing charges against Graham and others in relation to the killings.

Murdering a federal witness is a death-penalty offense.

Graham originally negotiated a plea agreement to serve 35 years on drug charges and cooperate with the feds. King, because of his cooperation, received 24 years. Davis, who did not cooperate, got 40.

But Graham failed a polygraph test about the information he provided, and King pointed out holes in Graham's story.

Prosecutors discovered that Graham's version of events contradicted the statements of other witnesses – and protected at least three people who might be able to implicate him. Court documents refer to the individuals only as "Associate Number One," "Associate Number Two" and "Associate Number Three."

"Graham's motive for withholding information about Associate Number One is simple," one filing states. "Graham told Scott King that this associate supplied the gun used to murder Ulysses Hackett and his girlfriend."

Associate Number Two was seen near Carter's apartment shortly after Hackett and Carter were murdered. According to King, he and Graham were with that associate when he allegedly committed a double homicide in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors contend Graham hid knowledge of the D.C. murders to curry favor from the associate in order to protect his role in the Hackett killings.

The third associate, with whom Graham has a "close relationship," was not suspected of being involved in the homicides, according to court documents. But Graham didn't want the feds to know about that person's involvement in his drug business.

Because the U.S. attorney's office determined Graham was deceitful, it withdrew its offer of a 35-year sentence and successfully pushed for the maximum punishment: life without parole.</
READ MORE Check out Creative Loafing's follow-up cover story "Tremayne Graham: Drugs, murder & deceit" in the May 9 issue of Creative Loafing.