Jail payback? One-time murder defendant accused of arranging threats

Walter Burks

Walter Burks

Three months ago, Shantoria Thompson stood trial for perjury in a case where fear of retaliation from Lonnie Davis and Walter Burks Jr. led her to recant claims she saw the two men rob and kill a Belle Glade man.

Now, one of the men is accused of plotting from jail to somehow get to an eyewitness and prosecutor in another case against him – allegations that led a judge who was supposed to preside over his trial this week to instead revoke his jail phone and visitation privileges.

Burks, known in Belle Glade as “Boss Hog,” escaped a murder charge in 2013 after prosecutors were forced to drop charges against him in the May 2011 death of John C. Griffin. Prosecutors credited Thompson, a 25-year-old mother of one, with sinking their case after threats of harm led her to say she hadn’t witnessed the shooting after all.

Burks landed back in jail a year later from an April 2014 armed robbery at the Buy Rite Furniture store at 64 W. Ave. A in Belle Glade.

His trial was supposed to begin this week, but Assistant State Attorney Brianna Coakley in court records last week aid Burks was caught in a recorded jail call passing both her name and the name of an eyewitness to the robbery to someone at the other end of the line with instructions to pass the names along to someone else.

“The State has a substantial fear that the Defendant is attempting to coordinate witness intimidation from the jail,” Coakley wrote in a Nov. 9 motion to Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes. “Prior and subsequent calls also allude to contacting some individual and getting the witness information.”

According to Coakley, Burks on the recorded like spells out her name when asked for “state’s name,” then also spelled out the name of eyewitness Kathy Walton.

Before then, Coakley said, Burks can be heard tellilng the unidentified call recipient: “I’m taking your word for it that this [expletive] is straight.”

Kastrenakes on Monday granted Coakley’s request to cut Burks jail visitation and phone privileges except for calls and visits from his attorneys because of the calls.

Though jury selection was expected to begin in his case Monday, Kastrenakes set the case on a two-hour call, meaning it could go to trial anytime over the next several weeks.

Burks, 24, is accused of battery on a person 65 years of age or older for allegedly placing store owner Virgil Tullos in a choke hold during a robbery where two assailants made off with $20.

As for Thompson, it took a jury less than two hours in August to acquit her of perjury charges after defense attorney Andrew Strecker argued that she backed away from her testimony out of duress after prosecutors and investigators repeatedly failed to adequately protect her from threats she received.

Davis, 25, is currently serving a year in prison on unrelated charges of resisting arrest.