Darrent Williams murder trial, day three: Reluctant testimony and the Billion Dollar Scholars

Westword is covering the trial of Willie Clark, accused of murdering Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams early on New Year's Day 2007. The most recent updates for the day will be at the top; to check out the account chronologically at day's end, read from the bottom up. Click here to catch up on day one and day two.

5:15 p.m.: After the break, Felix Abram took the stand. He's Henderson Abram's older cousin. Abram, 30, is in federal custody; he wore a red prison jumpsuit and wrist shackles. He spoke clearly and articulately. He said he's not a member of a Denver street gang and isn't aware of whether Clark or Harris are.

Abram testified that on New Year's Eve 2006, he drove his girlfriend's green Ford Expedition to dinner at the Dolce Vita restaurant on Lincoln Street. There, he said, he and his cousin ate with friends Daniel "PT" Harris, Marvin "Coffee" Bragg and a few other people. After dinner, he said, they walked to the Safari club on Broadway.

Inside the club, Abram said he saw Clark, who was wearing big sunglasses, but didn't spend much time with him. At let-out, there was an altercation outside the club between a group of people standing by a Hummer limo and people on the sidewalk, he said. "They were yelling, 'Fuck y'all Denver niggas; fuck y'all, this is Texas,'" Abram said.

"The people on the sidewalk, do you remember what their response was?" Levin asked.

"Fuck y'all," Abram said.

Abram said he tried to diffuse the situation. He said he pushed a drunk man he thought was a Bronco to try to keep him from fighting, and the man fell. He also grabbed his cousin Henderson, who was also drunk, to keep him from fighting.

His cousin got mad at him, Abram said, and started to walk off. Abram said he followed his cousin and caught up to him about a block and a half away. "I tell him he didn't want to fight anybody; there's too many girls out here to be tripping and shit; get your dumb ass in the car," Abram said. But first, he said, they walked back toward the club to see if any of their friends were still there. They weren't, Abram said.

Levin played the sidewalk surveillance tape again. It shows that at 2.22 a.m., the two Abrams walked past the club. Felix Abram can be seen with his arm around a woman. Abram said his cousin met the woman in front of the Arby's a half-block away.

"He starts talking to them and they kind of chubby, so I push to the front," Abram said. "Not that I have anything against chubby women." The audience laughed.

"Gee, thanks," the judge said jokingly.

Court ended at 4:50 p.m. Abram was not done his testimony and will likely take the stand tomorrow when the trial resumes at 9 a.m.

3:49 p.m.: The first witness after lunch was Ian Aneloski, an eyewitness who walked past the shooting scene soon after it happened. Aneloski couldn't be in the courtroom today, so his testimony was previously videotaped and played this afternoon for the jury.

Aneloski said he was walking to a friend's apartment from The Garage bar near 10th and Bannock Street sometime after 1:40 a.m. on New Year's Day 2007 when he heard five or so "tinks." "Like tink, tink, tink, tink, tink," he said.

From his vantage point at the corner of 11th and northbound-Speer, he said he also saw what looked like a late '90s white Suburban headed north on Speer. The windows were tinted, he said, and he didn't get a look at the people inside.

Aneloski said he also saw a white Hummer limo pulled off the side of the road right in front of P.S. 1 Charter School, which is near the intersection of 11th and Speer. The limo had holes in the driver's side. "I believed the Suburban had driven by the Hummer limo and shot into the Hummer limo," he said.

He said he approached the limo and looked inside. He said he saw a young woman trying to give CPR to a man; the man was bleeding. He also saw the driver of the limo outside on his cell phone, apparently calling 911.

On cross-examination, Hutt asked Aneloski whether he also saw a green SUV that other witnesses reported seeing. Aneloski said no, that he hadn't made note of any other vehicles in the area. Aneloski also admitted he'd had six to eight drinks that night, but said he wasn't so drunk that he was having trouble walking.

Ryan Alexander, the driver of Williams's limo that night, testified next. He witnessed the altercations outside the club. He said he saw a "rat-faced" man who appeared Hispanic get into an argument with some of the men he'd dropped off earlier. At one point, it sounded to him like someone was making reference to having a gun, he said.

It was chaotic when the passengers piled into the limo, Alexander said. As they were pulling away from the club, Williams hollered at him to stop the limo. He'd misplaced his large medallion and he wanted to find it before they drove away, Alexander and several other witnesses said. He did, and the limo continued down Broadway.

Alexander turned the limo right onto 10th and eventually right onto Speer, he said. Soon after, he said, he saw a white Chevy Suburban or Tahoe with its lights off coming up behind the limo in the left-hand lane. Then, he said, he heard shots.

"What I was hearing was a double shot: gunfire and then what sounded like a thud, which I assumed was the bullet hitting the car," Alexander said.

Alexander said he heard about twelve shots coming "as fast as they could pull the trigger." He pulled the limo off the side of the road onto a patch of snow and trees near the intersection of 11th and Speer. Once he'd stopped, he said he looked toward Speer again and saw the white SUV, still with its lights off, speeding away.

"I got out of the car and ran back to the driver's side door and that's when I saw Darrent Williams sitting there with a bullet wound to his neck," Alexander said. He added, "From his nose down was just full of blood."

Alexander said he called 911 and told the operator that a white Suburban or Tahoe had shot at them. On the stand today, Alexander said he's "very certain" it was a Tahoe -- not a Suburban or a Ford Expedition, as defense attorneys have suggested.

But on cross-examination, Hutt pointed out that Alexander first told police he was sure it was a Suburban. Alexander also told police that he suspected a man in a white fur coat who was outside the club -- and who has been identified as Henderson Abram -- was involved in the shooting, either as the driver of the white SUV or the shooter. The man in the fur coat was involved in the verbal altercation, he said, and then walked off.

(Abram testified yesterday that he was not involved at all.)

Prosecutor Tim Twining then followed up regarding the man in the fur coat: "Do you have any evidence from what you observed that night of that man having any involvement in this drive-by shooting?" he asked. "No," Alexander said.

The court took an afternoon break at 3:30 p.m. The trial will resume at 3:50.

1:24 p.m.: The court took a morning break from 11:20 a.m. to noon. During it, the people in the audience -- which includes Williams's friends and possibly family, as well as Willie Clark's friends and family -- could hear the jurors in the jury room laughing and talking.

Just after noon, Bronco Elvis Dumervil took the stand. As he sat down, the judge made him spit out his gum.

He wore jeans, a white T-shirt with a design on it and a black striped sweatshirt jacket with no hood. His voice seemed flat-ish and his face was fairly expressionless. He answered lawyers' questions clearly but without much enthusiasm.

Dumervil said he was at the club that night. His testimony was a bit more vague than that of other witnesses. He said he, Brandon Marshall, a few members of Marshall's family and some women arrived at the club around 11:30 p.m. and went up to an upper level.

At around midnight, he said, there was an altercation between the Broncos' group and two other men in the club. He described it as "arguing" and "talking." He said one of the men was black, short and stocky. He talked to him: "I pretty much said, 'We gotta do what we gotta do. You gotta do what you gotta do. Let's just all have a good time.'" After that, he said the short and stocky man calmed down. He said he doesn't remember seeing a light-skinned man inside the club but remembers someone saying "East Side."

After the club let out, Dumervil said he saw a verbal altercation between a light-skinned man and Marshall's cousin, Blair Clark. He said he wasn't involved in the altercation and tried to convince Marshall to get into their limo. "We were trying to get everyone inside the vehicle," he said. The limo eventually took off, he said. It later drove by Williams' limo, which was parked on Speer. He said it was unclear why Williams' limo was stopped, but he didn't realize it had been shot at. They kept driving past, he said.

Dumervil also talked about the phone call with Dunn. He said he recorded it because he thought it might be helpful in solving Williams's murder. Lawyers played it in court; only Dunn's side of the conversation was recorded.

On the recording, Dunn can be heard talking about when "Little Let" came up to her and her then-boyfriend's vehicle. "He walked up to the window and asked him, did he bring his heat? And I said, 'Don't have nothing to do with that,'" Dunn says in the call. Later, she says "Little Let" insinuated that it didn't matter because he already had a gun.

She also talks about the fight between the athletes and the men she knew as "Little Let" and "PT." She says that at one point, an athlete lifted up his shirt and pulled down his pants. "I couldn't tell if he was showing him a real gun or not," she says.

She also makes reference to a white Tahoe, but it was hard to understand the context.

On cross-examination, Hutt asked several questions about Marshall's involvement in the altercation outside the club. He showed Dumervil a part of the sidewalk surveillance tape that shows Marshall raising his arm above his head. "When Marshall raises his arm, he's flipping them off, right?" Hutt asked. "I don't know. I can't tell you," Dumervil said.

Hutt also asked about something Dumervil previously told the police -- that Marshall was trying to "throw down." He played the video of Dumervil's police interview; it was hard to understand what Dumervil said because he seemed to be mumbling. Dumervil said he doesn't remember saying "throw down."

Prosecutors agreed. "It sounds like 'fell down,' doesn't it?" Levin asked.

The court took a lunch break at 1 p.m. The trial is expected to resume at 2.

11:48 a.m.: Two key witnesses in the case -- Mario Anderson and Kataina "Markie" Jackson-Keeling -- again told Judge Christina Habas this morning that they refuse to testify in the case. Prosecutors say the two men were with Willie Clark in the white Tahoe when he shot Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams. Both men are being held in jail until they testify.

The trial resumed after 9 a.m. At around 9:15, Nicklas Washington, a friend of Williams's from college, took the stand. In late 2006, he came to Denver from Williams's hometown of Fort Worth, Texas with four other friends of Williams's to celebrate New Year's Eve and promote their rap group, the Billion Dollar Scholars. Williams was financially backing the group, Washington said, and had arranged a Denver radio appearance for them.

That day, Washington said the five Fort Worth men went to the Broncos game, which turned out to be a disappointing loss to the San Francisco 49ers. After the game, they went back to Williams's house and got ready to go out. At 10 p.m., a limo picked them up and brought them to the Safari club near 10th Avenue and Broadway, he said.

They hung out on the third floor of the club with some other Broncos players, including Brandon Marshall, Washington said. At around midnight, Marshall's cousin -- who prosecutors have identified as Blair Clark -- shook up a bottle of champagne and sprayed everyone on the third floor. Two other men in the club -- a short, dark-skinned man wearing designer sunglasses and a light-skinned man -- got angry about it, he said.

The dark-skinned man approached the Broncos group first. "A guy made a comment like, 'Who the fuck are they?' (He was) referring to Marshall's cousin."

Williams introduced himself and tried to calm the dark-skinned man down, Washington said. "Mr. Williams was just like, 'It's cool, man, we all together.'" It worked, he said.

But the confrontation wasn't over, Washington said. "Then a light-skinned guy walked up in Darrent's face and started causing a little more commotion," he said. The light-skinned guy said something about him and his friend being "East Side Crips," he said.

Club security guards then escorted the two men from the third floor, Washington said. They didn't see either of them again until the club let out at 2 a.m. and everyone spilled onto the sidewalk, he said. Outside, the light-skinned man tried to start a fight with them, he said. "He stood at the back of the limo and was yelling at us, 'Come out in the street, cuz. East Side Denver, cuz.' He had one hand in his pocket. I thought he may have a gun," Washington said. But he and his friends didn't take the bait, he said. Instead, they got into the limo -- along with Bronco Javon Walker and several women -- and left, Washington said, leaving behind Marshall and his cousin, Blair Clark.

Soon after they left, Washington said he heard gunshots but isn't sure how many. He said the limo swerved to the right and then stopped. After the shots ended, he said he realized his friend Brandon Flowers had been hit. (Flowers was shot in the buttocks.) Prosecutor Bruce Levin then asked whether he knew that Williams was shot. Washington became emotional; he hung his head and sniffed into the microphone.

"The females was yelling that D-Will got shot," he said. "He was slumped over."

On cross-examination, defense attorney Darren Cantor tried to point out that when Washington talked to the police that night, he seemed more focused on the light-skinned man, whose name he didn't know. The light-skinned man was doing most of the agitating, Washington said. Cantor pointed out that Washington didn't identify Wilie Clark as the agitator. "I seen him there (at the club), but my main thing was the guy that was doing all the talking," Washington said.

Cantor also pointed out that Washington never before mentioned that the dark-skinned man was wearing sunglasses, and that Washington gleaned a lot of information about the suspects in this case -- Wilie Clark and Daniel "PT" Harris, who lawyers have indicated is the light-skinned man -- from a MySpace page dedicated to Williams after his death.

After Cantor finished, Levin asked a few more questions. "When you say he had on sunglasses, is that something you read on the Internet?" he asked. "No," Washington said. "That's based on your own observation?" "Yes."

After Washington, a woman named Shaniqua Dunn took the stand. Her ex-boyfriend was friends with Willie Clark, who she knew only as "Little Let." She said she was parked in a maroon Ford Expedition outside the Safari Club at let-out in the early hours of New Year's Day 2007, looking for her younger cousin, when Clark approached the vehicle.

Dunn, a Denver nurse, seemed extremely reluctant to testify. She kept saying she doesn't remember anything about that night and emphasizing that she doesn't know Clark or Harris. She also admitted to telling police detectives that she was afraid because the case involves gang members and "people get killed." Her expression was a bit defiant.

She admitted, however, that Clark came up to the Expedition and asked her then-boyfriend, "Do you have a burner on you?" Her boyfriend said he didn't, she said.

"And (Clark) responded to that and said, 'That's okay, I've got one in my car?'" Levin asked her. "I don't remember. I started rolling the window up," she said. "You don't remember telling Detective (Michael) Martinez that you heard that?" No, she said.

She said she also saw Clark, Harris and a few other men get into an argument with some athletes who were hanging around a limo parked in front of the club. She said it got physical and punches were thrown. "Security came and broke the fight up and pushed them toward the Arby's (on the corner of 11th Avenue and Broadway)," she said. "The athletes followed them down the street calling them 'bitch-ass niggas.'"

During cross-examination, Dunn was still reluctant. She said that before New Year's Eve, she'd only met Willie Clark twice: once when he was eleven years old, and more recently when she and her boyfriend ran into him while they were on their way to a Nuggets game. They had a brief conversation, she said.

When defense attorney Abraham Hutt asked whether Clark and Harris seemed drunk to her that night, she said, "I don't remember. That was three years ago." He pointed out that she initially told the police that they didn't. "I don't remember," she said again.

Hutt played the surveillance tape from outside the club and had Dunn point out her Expedition, which was parked between the limo and the Arby's. Prosecutors say Willie Clark sat briefly in a white Tahoe in front of Arby's before chasing the limo and eventually shooting at it at 2:15 a.m. at an intersection near 11th and Speer Boulevard. At 2:17 a.m., the tape shows the Expedition driving off. "Did you ever see Willie Clark or anyone else get into a white Tahoe parked right behind you?" Hutt asked. "No," she said.

Dunn also testified that she called Bronco Elvis Dumervil, who she said was outside the club that night, in the days after the shooting to discuss what she'd seen. She was friends with Dumervil, she said, but she didn't know that he was recording the conversation. She said she didn't remember the details of what they'd talked about.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar