Opposing Attorneys Joust With Words At Jbm Murder Trial A Victim Died, All Agree. Alleging Who Did What To Whom And Why Kept Lawyers On Their Feet For Hours.

Posted: January 20, 1993

This much is undisputed: The killing of Bruce Kennedy on a humid August afternoon in 1990 was an organized hit related to drug dealing by the Junior Black Mafia.

What defense attorneys and the prosecutor in the trial of three men accused of Kennedy's murder can't agree on is the motive for the killing and, subsequently, the identity of the hitmen. Yesterday, each side laid out its own complicated theory of betrayal and conspiracy to explain Kennedy's death.

Assistant District Attorney Joel Rosen says the fatal shooting was ordered by JBM drug kingpin Aaron Jones, planned by his henchman Sam Brown, and carried out by two JBM enforcers, James Anderson and Christopher Anderson (who are not related). Jones, Brown and James Anderson are on trial, accused of murder and conspiracy in the killing.

Kennedy's assassination served two purposes for Jones, Rosen said. It salved the anger of JBM members over the earlier killing of another high- ranking member, Leroy "Bucky" Davis, and it got rid of a rival for the affection of Jones' one-time girlfriend.

"He's killing two birds with one stone," Rosen said. "It's the plot- within-the-plot in this case."

But defense attorneys suggest the fatal shooting was ordered by a disgruntled JBM lieutenant, Rodney "Frog" Carson, who had been cut out of the lucrative drug trade in West Philadelphia. They say the killing was carried out by his ally, Christopher Anderson. The two then schemed to pin the murder on Jones and his associates, said Brown's defense attorney, Daniel M. Preminger.

"Kennedy and Aaron Jones and Sam Brown are friendly allies - just what Frog doesn't want," Preminger told the jury yesterday. "Frog didn't like it. Frog is cut out."

Kennedy, 26, was gunned down by a man in a hooded black sweatshirt who strode into Mommie's Food Market in West Philadelphia cradling a semi- automatic 9mm gun. He headed straight for the grill where Kennedy was assembling a cheesesteak. As the gunman approached, Kennedy grabbed his own weapon and squeezed off one shot before falling in a spray of bullets. He was hit 12 times.

Kennedy was, at least at one time, a member of the JBM.

Christopher Anderson pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the killing and has been sentenced to 32 1/2 years in prison. He testified that he was the second of two gunmen in the store; he says he wounded a bystander, while James Anderson killed Kennedy.

Carson, another of Jones' lieutenants, testified under a deal negotiated with federal and local authorities. James Anderson reported to Carson after the killing, according to Christopher Anderson.

If Jones, Brown and James Anderson are convicted of first-degree murder, they could be sentenced to death. Common Pleas Judge John J. Poserina gave the jurors final instructions yesterday afternoon before sending them to begin deliberations.

While Preminger wove his scenario of Kennedy's murder for the jury, the two other defense attorneys - Gerald Stein for Brown, and Norris E. Gelman for James Anderson - worked determinedly at undermining the credibility of Carson and Christopher Anderson.

"They're here for one reason only - to save their own skins," Stein said.

Gelman called deals between Carson, Anderson and the authorities ''bribes."

The trial highlighted similarities between the JBM and the traditional South Philadelphia mob - the two groups have in common their somewhat corporate structures, internecine rivalries and a fondness for dubbing members with nicknames such as "Eggie," "Frog," "Magic" and "Bucky."

Jones, a founder of the JBM, was convicted last year in federal court of conspiring to distribute $100 million worth of cocaine in Philadelphia between 1986 and 1991. Earlier last year, he was convicted in another federal drug case, and agreed to forfeit $6.2 million in drug profits.

Rosen told the jury yesterday that Brown and Carson reported directly to Jones. The two Andersons were lower-level soldiers, he said.

Defense attorneys insist Kennedy was active dealing drugs when he was killed. They say that, in cooperation with his cousin, Bryan "Moochie" Thornton, Kennedy cut into the drug territory Carson worked for Davis. When Davis was killed in May 1990, Carson was replaced in Jones' inner circle by Thornton. With his drug business dried up, defense attorneys argued, Carson ordered Kennedy killed - both to avenge Davis and as a way of regaining his position.

Rosen says evidence is scant that Kennedy was actively dealing drugs when he died. But Rosen agrees Kennedy was killed partly to avenge Davis' murder - at least, Rosen argues, that was what Jones told his subordinates. But Rosen said Jones' primary motive was jealousy that Kennedy was dating Jones' former girlfriend and the mother of his son.

"It's a brilliant plan," Rosen told the jury. "Sam Brown, Chris, James, ''Frog" - their motive was they were following orders. But Aaron Jones' motive? Two birds with one stone."

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