Security concerns lead to prison video hearing for alleged gang ringleader

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 27 at 6:14 PM

Brendan McCarthy / Eyewitness News
Email: bmccarthy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @bmccarthyWWL

NEW ORLEANS - The city's most notorious criminal answered to a new slate of federal criminal charges Tuesday via a video teleconference.

Amid security concerns, Telly Hankton, the alleged ringleader of a supposed Central City crime family, was not brought to federal court in New Orleans.

Instead, he was beamed in via video to answer a litany of charges for which he could face a possible death sentence.

In jail, Hankton, in a powder blue prison jumpsuit, sat shackled at the end of a conference table. His two attorneys joined him. And he was visibly unhappy with the proceedings.

From the outset, Hankton objected to the video teleconference and declined to speak or participate in the arraignment.

When U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle asked how he intended to plead, Hankton sat silent, his shoulders slumped. Moments passed.

Lemelle ultimately entered a not guilty plea on Hankton's behalf.

Prosecutors had sought to seal Hankton's hearing and shield any associated documents from public view. They cited security concerns. But a judge denied that request, paving the way for today’s unique hearing.

Hankton had been serving a life sentence at Angola State Penitentiary following a conviction last year in the 2008 killing of Darnell Stewart.

Now, Hankton is in federal custody at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.

Security was an issue when Hankton previously appeared in state court at Tulane and Broad. Deputies toted rifles outside the building and stood guard at the courthouse door.

Authorities have called Hankton one of the city's most dangerous criminals

Last month, prosecutors unsealed a sprawling racketeering indictment that charged Hankton and 12 others with operating a violent Central City drug ring dating back to 1996. That indictment also implicated Hankton and associates in at least three other murders.

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