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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Federal jury in Oakland murder-for-hire case centered on Louisiana pot trafficker known as Hitler hanged

SAN FRANCISCO — After just two days of jury deliberation, a mistrial was declared in a federal murder-for-hire case that made links between a Louisiana drug trafficking ring and an Oakland shooting.

More than six years ago, Los Gatos resident and Louisiana native Thrins Thibodaux was shot on International Boulevard in Oakland. Louisiana resident Marcus Etienne, a marijuana smuggler who went by the nickname “Hitler” and was implicated in multiple murder investigations, admitted in 2020 that he ordered Thibodaux’s murder as part of his criminal organization Which was dubbed the “Etienne Enterprise” by the authorities.

But proving who fired the bullet that killed Thibodaux could be more challenging than federal officials expected. Prosecutors have long argued that it was Burt Gucci Rhodes, a man who was in turn hired by co-defendant Mario Robinson, who killed Etienne.

But at the end of Rhodes’ trial on Wednesday, one of the jurors announced they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. Now prosecutors have to decide whether to try Rhodes again, drop the charges, or propose a plea deal on the lesser drug and gun crimes he also faces.

The prosecution case against Rhodes was built largely on the words of two co-defendants: Etienne’s wife, Elizabeth Gobert, and Craig Marshall, a friend of Robinson’s who allegedly traveled with her after the murder, and when Thibodaux was present when he was shot. Rhodes’ attorney, Kenneth Vine, argued that witnesses should not be relied upon and pointed to the testimony of Marshall’s wife, Precious Smith, who testified that she heard him confess to the murder.

The defense argued that Rhodes was not the shooter, and pointed to DNA found on one of the shells left at the scene of the murder, which could not be linked to either Rhodes or Marshall.

Both Gobert and Marshall have accepted plea bargains and await sentencing. In 2020, Robinson and Etienne both pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges in exchange for jail terms of 32 and 34 years, respectively. But unlike Marshall and Gobert, not only did Robinson and Etienne refuse to testify, they were both held in contempt of court during the Rhodes trial, when the US Marshal dragged them into the courtroom and He refused to come to the stand.

According to prosecutors, Etienne wanted Thibodaux to die because of a dispute over $5,700 in a marijuana smuggling ring that shipped cannabis from Northern California to Louisiana. Etienne pays Robinson and Marshall $5,000 to lure Thibodaux to International Boulevard, where officers allege that Rhodes killed him. tienne told Thibodaux’s family that another man, Rodney Savoy, was responsible, and that Savoy was later shot inside his home for being a scapegoat.

In July 2018, Marshall told the FBI that he was in Houston when Etienne shouted at him how “thrins f–d up.” He said that he and Robinson flew to Los Angeles and traveled from there to Oakland, and met with Etienne at Motel 6, where he explained that he wanted to “knock off” Thibodaux.

Marshall said he refused to line up a hitman, but Robinson said he would, and he recruited Rhodes – also known as Moeshon – to join a rap group called Dollar Sign Gang. Recorded music in Marshall said he saw Rhodes personally shoot Thibodaux at least five times.

But Vine argued that Marshall was not credible, partly because of the leniency he was receiving in exchange for testimony. In pre-trial motions, Vine said Smith told federal investigators he knew of three murders involving Marshall, in which one victim was shot and her body dumped in a Louisiana swamp. Marshall told investigators that he was aware of false rumors that implicated him in violent crimes, but allowed him to stand because he benefited from fearing others.

“When the government case relies on a co-defendant like Craig Marshall to testify in return for the timing of his sentence, the jury should be skeptical. And in this case the jury was skeptical,” Wines said. “The insensitive reliance on cooperatives by the government should not be part of the criminal justice system,” it said in a statement to the newspaper.

But the defense argued that Robinson had hired a third, unknown, party to execute Thibodaux and that Rhodes was left to take the blame. Vine argued that when Gobert testified she heard Robinson say that “my homeboy did it,” referring to the murder, it was not clear to whom she was referring. He also pointed to Smith’s testimony that he had picked up Robinson and Marshall from an airport after the murder, and Marshall asked Robinson why he was so nervous when Marshall was there.

World Nation News Desk
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