Local high school students sit in for transcript testimony in ‘Boom Bat’ trial

They came here to see testimony from witnesses implicating a Latin Kings leader for ordering the brutal 2004 murder of a gang “queen” and attempted murder of a gang turncoat.

But the troupe of high school students in attendance at Jose “Boom Bat” TRT-L-negrete jose 0560Negrete’s fourth murder trial was forced to settle for the disemboweled voice of Latin Kings gang member Rhadames “Havy” Acosta, played by a detective in the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

Detective Roberto Reyes took the stand once again Tuesday in place of Acosta, who last week said under the threat of contempt he would not testify against Negrete for ordering the execution-style murder of Jeri Lynn Dotson to ensure her silence after she witnessed several gang members lure gang turncoat Alex Ruiz from the Chestnut Avenue home they shared.

Ruiz was choked out and left for dead on Duck Island on Aug. 30, 2004 by members of the Latin Kings allegedly on orders from Negrete because his defection from a rival gang sparked a war.

While the Latin Kings leader has maintained his innocence over the last decade as prosecutors have struggled to convict him of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder, Negrete was overhead mouthing to sheriff officers while he was being uncuffed that students came to see a “bad guy.”

Negrete, dressed in a charcoal suit with a red tie, eyed students lining the benches of the courtroom before sitting down next to his attorney, Jack Furlong.

Testimony proceeded as usual with Reyes reading Acosta’s answers from previous testimony.

Acosta had previously testified there were two options for the rival gangs to settle their dispute. Either Negrete could fight former Ñetas leader Fernando Rivera “to the death,” or the Latin Kings had to hand over Ruiz.

Despite his published proclivity for fighting, Negrete chose the latter, Acosta said. But he later ordered his henchmen to “finish” Ruiz when the Ñetas didn’t kill him, in part because Ruiz’s brother was a member of the Ñetas.

Earlier in the day, Esmeraldo “Esmo” Rodriguez said at a hearing outside of the jury’s presence he couldn’t remember his prior testimony.

Rodriguez, 29, was released from state prison in May 2012 after serving a 7-year sentence for conspiracy for his role in the near-strangulation of Ruiz, according to the Department of Corrections. He is the fourth state witness whose testimony was read to the jury, joining the likes of Ruiz, and gang members Joey Martinez and Acosta.

Furlong has opposed testimony being read, saying he has not had an adequate opportunity to cross examine witnesses. Furlong has questioned few of the state’s witnesses who have taken the stand as part of a trial strategy he laid out at the outset of the trial.

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