Brendan McCarthy / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- The attorney for Walter Porter, the man authorities say served as a hitman for the alleged Telly Hankton crime ring, is questioning whether his client is mentally competent to stand trial.

The attorney, J.C. Lawrence, filed requests late Tuesday in federal court asking that Porter undergo a mental competency hearing before the sprawling criminal case proceeds.

Porter, 36, of New Orleans, has pleaded not guilty to the various charges and is currently in federal custody.

Lawrence noted in the court filings that a recent visit with his client prompted him to question whether Porter is competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense.

Lawrence wrote that Porter 'is unusually and uncharacteristically agitated' and 'unable to fix upon a topic in that his attention span is uncharacteristically short.'

Porter is currently facing charges in two separate federal cases. One case charges him and an associate with robbing two area banks at gunpoint last summer. The other, more high-profile case, involves the alleged Hankton family crime organization. Porter faces several murder, conspiracy and gun charges in that matter.

Porter is accused of shooting at John Matthews, a key eyewitness in a murder case against Hankton. Porter allegedly killed Matthews' brother, Curtis Matthews, just days after Hankton was sentenced to life in prison. Porter is also accused of murdering Jessie Reed in June 2009 and later, an alleged witness to that killing, Hasan Williams.

Federal judges have yet to rule on the mental competency requests.

Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Porter, Hankton, and eleven others in a broad, racketeering case. The indictment includes allegations of murder, drugs, violence and more. The group, led by Telly Hankton, moved hundreds of kilos of cocaine, some heroin, marijuana and more, according to prosecutors. And in order to run that drug operation, they allegedly shot, killed and intimidated others.

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