- post by: #TooRealForTV
- April 10, 2017
Jury acquits in pimp shooting trial
The shooting victim was a pimp, plying his trade with three women at a motel in Bethlehem Township.
One of the witnesses against Ian A. Payne was a self-confessed prostitute. Another was a co-defendant, who admitted participating in the botched 2012 robbery in which gunfire erupted.
In the end, it just wasn’t enough to convince a Northampton County jury.
On Thursday after a three-day trial, Payne was acquitted of charges of aggravated assault, attempted robbery and conspiracy, a verdict that caused the defendant to wipe tears from his eyes and breathe deep sighs of relief in the courtroom.
At trial, jurors didn’t hear from Manuel Rodriguez Valcarcel, the pimp who survived after suffering two bullet wounds. He is wanted on drug charges, and is believed to be living in Florida, police said.
The trial exposed an underbelly of life in the Lehigh Valley, with the intersection of prostitution, drugs and violence. On the witness stand, Payne acknowledged selling drugs and being a longtime member of the Bloods, though he maintained he has since cut ties with the gang.
Authorities alleged Payne orchestrated the Dec. 12, 2012, robbery at the former Comfort Inn off Route 22. They said he went to the motel after one of the three women with Valcarcel, Jessica M. Hartman, asked for help, saying she was being held against her will.
Both Hartman and a co-defendant of Payne, Angel A. Ruiz, testified against him. Ruiz said Payne ordered the robbery and served as the driver.
But defense attorney Rory Driscole insisted his client was falsely accused, saying the pair were angry that Payne had implicated them to police as the investigation unfolded.
Driscole said the verdict showed jurors didn’t believe Ruiz and Hartman.
“It comes down to how unreliable those two witnesses were and I don’t think they could get over that,” Driscole said.
Driscole praised Payne’s decision to testify in his own defense.
“It took a lot of guts to get up there on the stand knowing he’d be ridiculed about his gang ties and his past life,” Driscole said.
During closing arguments Thursday, Assistant District Attorney John Obrecht conceded his witnesses were not exemplary people. But he said their accounts proved Payne’s involvement, and were supported by cellphone records that showed the defendant exchanged repeated calls and text messages with Hartman that night.
Afterward, Obrecht left the courtroom without comment.
Payne has been in jail pending trial, and with the verdict, he will be released, said Judge Anthony Beltrami.
Payne, Ruiz and another co-defendant were charged after an investigation by a county grand jury, which identified them as associates of the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang in Allentown.
Driscole noted that Payne appeared before the grand jury during its probe and provided evidence against Ruiz — a motive, the attorney said, for Ruiz to seek to frame him.
In August, Ruiz received five to 10 years in prison after admitting to conspiracy to commit robbery and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.
The gunman — Michael L. Hendrix, 30 — pleaded guilty in September to aggravated assault and was sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison.
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