News | 5.11.2011 | Comments Off on Murder trial photo sparks challenge

Prosecutor describes a “dastardly plan;” defense sees a lack of evidence
By ROBERT GAVIN Staff writer
Updated 09:37 p.m., Thursday, November 3, 2011

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ALBANY — Steven Jackson phoned his 5-year-old son every day. It was among the routines for the transplanted Long Islander known as “Swag,” along with selling and storing large amounts of marijuana inside a stash house at 40 Parkwood St. in Albany.

But those phone calls halted on June 13, 2010, the day prosecutors say a crew of kidnappers clad in gloves and bandanas ambushed Jackson, 41, at the stash house and left him to die.

He had been betrayed by a friend and secretly watched for months — then hog-tied, bound with duct tape, shoved head-first into a bed and beaten up. His lifeless body was draped in a blanket and dumped into a 20-foot sewer on Terminal Street in Albany, where it has never been found, a Assistant District Attorney Eric Galarneau said Thursday.

The description was part of opening statements as the murder and kidnapping trial of three of Jackson’s alleged captors got under way in Albany County Court.

Ricky “L” Thornton, 41, Louis “God” Chaney, 43, and Jason “Jay” Benn, 38, face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary and conspiracy charges.

Galarneau told jurors the investigation started with text messages never returned to Shaniqua Hunter, the victim’s sister. “Where are you?” she messaged her brother on the day of the alleged kidnapping, he said. “This isn’t funny.”

The prosecutor pounded his hand on a podium as he described a “dastardly plan” involving “age-old human motives of greed, treachery and violence.” And he held up a photo of Jackson to the jury, infuriating defense attorneys. They called for a mistrial, arguing the photo was shown to elicit sympathy from the jury, violating the Court of Appeals protocol.

“(Jurors are) never going to get it out of their heads,” said Thornton’s attorney, Holly Trexler.

An irked acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont said he was “dumbstruck” and chided the prosecution for what he called egregious misconduct, but denied the motion for a mistrial. He asked the jury to disregard the photo.

Galarneau had said the plot included Jackson’s drug partner, Gino “G” Uzzell and Anthony “Inf” Davis. Both secured plea deals and will testify for prosecutors. Galarneau said the kidnappers waited until Jackson had money and pot on him. He said Thornton and Davis started the kidnap crew, and called in Benn and Chaney. He alleged they grabbed Jackson inside the apartment, demanding, “Where’s the money?”

Galarneau said a gagged Jackson started to loosen his restraints, prompting more beating until “he wasn’t moving anymore.” He said the group went to Jackson’s Guilderland home, where they tripped an alarm before leaving. Within days, he said, Uzzell received phone calls from Jackson’s family.

The men talked among themselves, Galarneau said, and Davis and Benn returned to the Parkwood Street stash house.

Benn discovered Jackson’s body but Davis thought Benn was joking, the prosecutor said. Theny wrapped Jackson in a blanket, and drove to the Terminal Street sewer, where they removed the cap and dumped the body, he said.

Defense attorneys, one by one, questioned a lack of physical evidence — and a body — in their addresses to the jury. Benn was allegedly caught using Jackson’s credit card on the day of the kidnapping.

Benn’s lawyer, Michael Feit, said Benn received the card from a woman — not Jackson. He indicated his client was home when the alleged kidnapping happened. Chaney’s attorney, Michael Mansion, said the “ton of evidence” in the case will not prove his client took part. He and Feit told jurors they must first consider whether Jackson is dead, though Trexler said Davis was “more than likely the actual killer.”

Hunter, the first prosecution witness, broke down when asked to identify Jackson, crying, “He’s my brother!”

The trial continues Friday.

Reach Gavin at 434-2403 or

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