Longform

Do Tell

Page 3 of 6

When Tibbs testified at Domena's preliminary hearing that June, his performance on the witness stand was notable as much for his state of mind as for his statements. After prosecutors led him through his version of events, Tibbs admitted under oath during cross-examination that he was feeling a tad under the weather. He had, he told defense attorneys, downed a fifth of gin, drunk a bottle of beer and smoked crack the day before the hearing.

Despite the efforts of the district attorney's office to protect its star witness before Domena's trial, Tibbs says the Crips managed to ferret him out anyway. "I was starting to have some problems," he says. "They were watching my comings and goings. I explained to [the DA's office] that they knew where I lived, so they moved me again." This time, he says, prosecutors put him up in an apartment south of I-225, where they felt he was less likely to run into the uptown gangsters.

As it turned out, Tibbs didn't have to testify at Domena's March 1996 trial. The authorities wanted Domena so much, Tibbs says, "that they offered to drop all charges against Givens if he told them Orlando did it. What man wouldn't go for that?" Givens turned against his friend, and Domena got life plus twenty years. Givens walked away a free man. The Denver DA's office offered to help him relocate to another city after his testimony, but Givens declined the offer. He should have taken it.

On the evening of October 30, 1996, Givens was shot to death and tossed out of a car in the 2700 block of Madison Street. Although investigators have said they're unsure if his murder was related to his role in Domena's conviction, his family is convinced that gang members killed him. As of last week, no charges had been filed in the case.

Tibbs was in the Denver County Jail the day Givens was killed, serving time after racking up a variety of charges in Denver and Arapahoe counties. By the fall of 1996, his dance card was so full--he was named in numerous arrest warrants, one of which charged him with being a habitual traffic offender--that any new criminal violation was almost certain to get him locked up. It came on October 22, eight days before Givens was killed, when Tibbs was arrested in Denver and charged with car theft. (Tibbs has a bill of sale for the car, a junked 1980 Buick Regal, says attorney Richard Korecki, who's assisting him in the case, "but I don't know how valid it is.") The cops apparently were out of excuses. Tibbs was hauled off to jail.

Jail is an unfriendly place for people like Tibbs. On October 28, he says, he was sitting in the tank, ready to be taken to court for an appearance, when he was approached by five Crips angry about his testimony against Domena. "They said, 'You took our homie's life, and when we get back, we're going to kill you,'" he says. "I wasn't too worried about it at the time, but the officer snatched me out of there, and they placed me in protective custody." Tibbs was still in the hole three days later when a deputy told him that Givens had been killed.

"I got a little shaken up then," he admits.
Tibbs knew he was going to need a lot of help to get out of the mess he'd gotten himself into. Luckily, he says, he hadn't cut his ties to Deputy District Attorney Tim Twining, who had prosecuted the Domena case.

Tibbs claims that Twining agreed to help him out of his latest predicament. The deputy DA, Tibbs says, promised to get him probation for his traffic cases in Arapahoe County and worked out a deal under which Tibbs would spend a maximum of ninety days in jail for three pending Denver cases, which included two DUIs and a charge for driving while his license was revoked. In addition, says Tibbs defense attorney Duncan Bradley, the ninety days were to run concurrently with a 175-day sentence Tibbs had received for yet another misdemeanor charge.

Twining, however, denies that he has had any recent dealings with Tibbs. "My involvement with him ended about a year ago," he says. "I have not assisted him since. I have no idea what he's in jail for now, though it's not surprising to me that he's back." Twining adds that he has told Tibbs "repeatedly" that his testimony against Domena "is not a 'Get Out of Jail' card."

Tibbs says he was expecting an easy ride when he entered his plea on the Denver traffic offenses in November. Afterward, he was returned to the Denver County Jail to await sentencing--and placed in a cell next to Jon Morris.

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Karen Bowers