Suspected drug lord duped
More than 30 times this year, investigators say, Shannon Williams orchestrated a multimillion-dollar marijuana ring from inside the Douglas County Jail.
In one-on-one sessions with a jail visitor, Williams would use the visitor's cell phone to call associates and instruct them on how to divvy up the gobs of marijuana and money his operation was taking in.
He would confide in the visitor about his past exploits, claiming he had earned $15 million to $20 million while operating the marijuana ring in Omaha. He would ask the visitor to launder the money he was making. And he would use the visitor's cell phone to try to arrange hits: one to beat up his longtime defense attorney and another to “put a few into the back” of an Omaha man who had been messing with Williams' girlfriend.
All the while, the visitor would take it in, nodding and promising to follow Williams' orders.
The girlfriend: Deshawn Hernandez, 29, charged with conspiracy and money laundering.
The initial informants: Steve Kisseberth, 45, and Richard Conway, 36, who have not been charged in this case.
The attorney turned informant: Terry L. Haddock, 52, of Omaha.
The alleged associates: Christopher Parrott, 29, and brother Anthony Parrott, 27, Vicki Cass, age unavailable, Sara Jarrett, 30, Amy Griffith, 33, Daniel Bouquet, 51, Jamie Ackerly, 39, and wife Yvonne Ackerly, 35, all of Omaha; Joe Mark Felix of Phoenix, all of whom are charged with conspiracy. Christopher Parrott, Cass and Jarrett also are charged with money laundering.
Turns out that jailhouse visitor was no friend, no ally, no dutiful worker. He was a government informant.
And here's the jaw dropper: He was a lawyer — an Omaha attorney who Williams says was representing him.
His name: Terry L. Haddock.
The revelation of whom the government was using as its informant not only rocked Williams, it shocked some legal observers. Several veteran attorneys say they have never heard of the federal government using a private lawyer to glean information from an inmate.
The U.S. attorney for Nebraska and at least one legal expert say investigators were on solid legal ground.
But others expressed concerns about whether the use of the attorney amounted to entrapment or possibly violated Williams' attorney-client privilege — and whether the resulting indictments of Williams and 10 others are the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree.
“Put it this way, I'm not surprised the government wanted to do it,” said Omaha attorney D.C. “Woody” Bradford, in his 42nd year of practicing law. “But I'm shocked that an attorney was willing to do it.”
In a flurry of filings and letters from the jail, Williams, a 42-year-old street-savvy convict, said he, too, was floored.
“An FBI (informant) posing as my attorney!!!” Williams wrote. “I still can't believe it!”
The hard-to-believe story — complete with hit lists, a skinhead, two men who have been acquitted of murders, cars packed with drugs, hidden GPS devices and a defendant walking naked through an Arizona park — sounds like an episode of the former HBO series “The Wire.”
But make no mistake, court records and testimony show, this is real — all the way down to the Omaha attorney who for some reason was willing to wear a wire and risk his career, and even his life.
The following account of the allegations against Williams and 10 others is based on court documents and the testimony of Bellevue Police Officer John Stuck, a lead investigator in the case.
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The investigation began with a traffic stop in Illinois.
About 8 a.m. Oct. 5, 2008, the Illinois State Patrol pulled over a U-Haul speeding east on Interstate 80. When the driver began acting skittish, the trooper called for a drug dog.
The dog sniffed out 329 pounds of marijuana. Troopers confronted the driver, Steve Kisseberth. He agreed to cooperate.
Kisseberth, 45, and an Omaha man, Richard Conway, 36, told investigators the group had been running 300 to 400 pounds of marijuana from Phoenix to Omaha every three weeks since July 2007. Kisseberth said he had joined in a handful of times — and the group had decided to truck some of the pot farther east on I-80 during the October 2008 trip.
Kisseberth told of the group's normal routine: He would fly to Phoenix, where he was provided with a vehicle packed with pot and bearing Arizona plates. He then would drive to Denver, where the pot was switched to a truck with Nebraska plates.
“They liked to have trucks that had that state's license plates so as not to attract suspicion,” Stuck said.
Investigators also discovered that New Mexico police, during a traffic stop, had found $145,000 in cash in a car rented by Omaha resident Christopher Parrott, one of Williams' alleged accomplices.
Then in January 2009, Williams was arrested after residents reported he was walking naked through a park in Peoria, Ariz. Police found 10 bales of marijuana, weighing 297 pounds, inside his house. They also found someone else in the house: James Hatten, an Omahan who was acquitted in a 1996 murder in rural Douglas County.
Williams gave Arizona authorities a fake name, posted an $8,000 bond and fled to Minnesota.
At that point, Stuck approached Haddock. It's unclear what prompted the drug investigator to try to use the attorney. However, Stuck testified that he knew Williams had paid Haddock $8,000 to represent Conway after his indictment over the marijuana found in Illinois.
Haddock then provided Stuck with Williams' cell phone number — a number that Stuck traced to Minnesota. Soon after, Stuck arrested Williams and brought him back to the Douglas County Jail for violating his supervised release from a 1993 crack-dealing conviction.
While Stuck tracked down Williams, a multistate drug task force had begun tracking the group's vehicles. At night, investigators would sneak up to the group's parked cars and attach GPS devices to them. In turn, the investigators used computer software to track the cars as one left Omaha and another left Phoenix, until both met in Denver.
Sometimes officers would pull over the cars and get the occupants to fess up. Other times, they would let them off with a warning for a traffic violation.
Either way, Stuck said, investigators were collecting names of drug runners on the outside.
* * *
Now they just needed someone on the inside.
This past summer, Stuck said, he asked Haddock if the attorney would agree to be outfitted with a recording device and meet with Williams at the Douglas County Jail. Attorneys are typically the only visitors allowed to meet face to face with inmates, and jailers aren't allowed to listen in on those meetings.
“Mr. Williams had asked Terry Haddock to bring a phone up to him,” Stuck testified. “He wanted the freedom, through Mr. Haddock, to … be able to do the operations without the recording of the phones inside the jail.”
Haddock agreed. Soon, he and the wire were witness to a vast conspiracy. In more than 30 meetings at the jail, Williams would use Haddock's phone to speak to suppliers “Flaco” and “Javi” in Arizona. Williams would direct the movement of thousands of pounds of marijuana.
And Williams would quash beefs. In August, Parrott became worried because, Stuck said, Parrott had stolen a “ticket” from Flaco. A ticket is more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana worth more than $1 million.
Williams told Parrott to get a safe and pack it with pot and money. He then ordered the others to throw away their cell phones so Flaco couldn't trace their whereabouts.
While Williams reassured the group he would find a new supplier, he was telling Flaco that someone had stolen the pot from Parrott.
He then gave Haddock orders. He asked the attorney to go to Parrott and to Williams' girlfriend, Deshawn Hernandez, to retrieve cash.
In turn, authorities gave Haddock more ammunition. They had him set up a corporation, called Mango Creek Properties, in which he could launder the drug money.
Under Williams' instruction, Haddock then took more than $80,000 from Parrott and Hernandez and placed it into Mango Creek's accounts.
Williams' requests grew bolder. On Nov. 13, Williams told Haddock he wanted to give $2,000 to an inmate — a white supremacist named Jason “Skin” Hawthorne — to beat up Williams' longtime defense attorney, Steve Lefler.
Williams then made a call to Hatten, who has not been indicted, and talked about an Omaha man who had been around Williams' girlfriend and children.
Williams wanted “to put a few in his back,” Stuck testified, “to let him know he was disrespected.”
Soon after, Haddock alerted authorities to the threats against Lefler and the other man. Neither man was harmed.
By mid-December, the conspiracy had unraveled into 11 indictments, with more possibly coming. Haddock, meanwhile, has told others he is in the witness protection program.
* * *
Attorneys wasted no time trying to attack the constitutionality of investigators' use of Haddock. At a detention hearing last week, Williams' court-appointed attorney, Michael Tasset, grilled Stuck — asking if Haddock had been paid or what “incentive Haddock was getting to assist the government.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett III cut off that line of questioning, saying it was irrelevant at a detention hearing.
The taped conversations “may be suppressible at a trial,” the judge said. “They may not be.”
Williams said he had retained Haddock for several matters, including a lawsuit Williams filed to try to expose disparities in crack cocaine sentencings.
Stuck disputed that.
“In the very first (jail) contact with Mr. Williams, Mr. Haddock explained that he is not his attorney and would not do any legal work for him at all,” Stuck testified. “Mr. Williams understood.”
At this point, little is known about why Haddock, 52, chose to get involved. A nontraditional student, he graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a perfect GPA in 1998. He then graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Law School in 2001 and later joined the Omaha law firm of Raynor, Rensch and Pfeiffer. Haddock is no longer with the firm and hasn't been for months.
Haddock has had marital and financial problems in the past two years. Court records list credit card debts of $28,000 and $22,000.
His wife filed for divorce in 2008. The couple have several grown daughters.
Williams, who was acquitted in the 1993 murder of an Omaha man, said Haddock's “betrayal” has left him unsure whom to trust. At last week's hearing, Williams could be overheard asking if his new attorney “was an undercover agent, too.” Williams and the others face 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
“Not for Al Qaeda or John Gotti has the federal government stooped so low,” Williams wrote to The World-Herald. “Posing as a criminal attorney to get a defendant to talk ‘freely' of his criminal past screams of entrapment and will turn the U.S. justice system on its ear if this is allowed to happen.”
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