Detroit— Two women were charged in federal court Monday after allegedly threatening witnesses in a trial against members of a purportedly violent street gang.
The alleged witness tampering happened in Flint on the sidelines of a trial of six men accused of being involved with the Howard Boys street gang. Twelve people were charged originally in a case that involves murder, racketeering, drug dealing and weapons.
The defendants include brothers Jatimothy and Jonathan Walker, both face up to life in prison if convicted.
Their sister, Etoile Walker, 36, allegedly approached a witness outside federal court in Flint early Monday and told the woman “that she did not need to testify,” according to FBI Special Agent Gustavo Grodsinsky.
Minutes later, the witness, Janay Moss, refused to testify despite being subpoenaed, according to court records. Moss had earlier expressed concerns about her safety, Grodsinsky wrote in a criminal complaint.
If convicted of witness tampering, Walker faces up to 20 years in prison.
It was unclear Monday whether the witnesses will be forced to testify during the trial, which continued despite the alleged tampering.
A second woman also has been charged with witness tampering involving a second witness but the complaint was not immediately available in federal court.
The trial, indirectly, has delayed former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s appeal of his 28-year sentence and conviction in the City Hall corruption case.
That’s because his lawyer, Harold Gurewitz, represents one of the defendants in the Howard Street gang case. Last week, Gurewitz cited the trial in asking for more time to file Kilpatrick’s appeal brief.
In the Howard Street gang case, prosecutors indicted 12 people two years ago and alleged the gang had operated on the south side of Flint in and around the Howard Estates housing complex since 2002.
Gang members used violence to maintain control over their territory and committed murders, the government said.