LARGO — The second trial of a young man accused of shooting a teenager to death began much like the first — with allegations of threats and intimidation.
Before prosecutors could even begin arguing their case against Tyree Gland, accused in a 2007 drive-by shooting in St. Petersburg, Assistant State Attorney Richard Ripplinger told the court he had just learned of a new plot. He said he was told that Gland had contacted a key witness in the case with help from another person who arranged a three-way conference call from jail. The witness was reportedly asked how much money it would take to keep him from testifying.
By Tuesday evening, prosecutors had acquired a jail recording of the phone call, but technical issues prevented them from playing it in court. Attorneys will likely try again today, and argue later about whether the recording should become evidence in the second-degree murder trial of Gland.
Claims of intimidation like this sound like a Hollywood script, but in this case, it's just part of "a continuing saga," as Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip J. Federico remarked Tuesday.
Gland's brother already has gone to prison for a year for intimidating a witness in Gland's first trial, and Gland himself wears a tattoo with a threat against a St. Petersburg detective who investigated the case against him. The tattoo says:
Federico on Tuesday refused a request from defense attorney Charles Lykes to prevent jurors from learning about the tattoo. Ripplinger has said the tattoo — which Gland acquired after his arrest — shows a "consciousness of guilt," with its implied threat to the police officer who is expected to testify against him.
The defense has argued that showing the tattoo will unfairly prejudice the jury.
Gland was convicted of second-degree murder last year but won a new trial after prosecutors discovered that one of their witnesses had fabricated evidence in a Hillsborough County case. That made them ethically obligated to inform the court, and a judge ordered a new trial.
Gland is accused of shooting to death Deandre Brown, 15, in March 2007.
"What began as an ordinary night in St. Pete left Deandre Brown clinging to his life and ultimately dying that night," Assistant State Attorney Doneene Dresback said in opening statements.
It began when a birthday party at the Wildwood recreation center got bigger than expected, and turned into a fight. Before long, two teenagers, Gland and Raymond Abdul Adams, wanted to find whoever had beaten up a cousin of theirs in the fight.
Gland and Adams were allegedly part of a group that drove in two cars down 15th Avenue S and confronted another group of teenagers. Gland, who is 20 now but was 17 at the time, fired a gun into the air, one witness said Tuesday.
Later, the same group confronted another group of teenagers on Highland Street.
With Adams driving one of the cars, Gland propped himself on the passenger side window, Dresback said. He leaned over the car roof and shot toward the group of teenagers, she said.
Brown, the 15-year-old who was killed, had not even been part of the original fight, authorities have said.
Adams, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence.