Apollo Holmes gets bail in Darius Miller beatdown case

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Hat Tip: Beth Warren, Atlanta Journal Constitution

The mother of a celebrity fitness trainer critically injured when he was beaten in a Midtown parking lot made an emotional plea to a judge Friday to think of her comatose son before granting bail to a suspect.

Patricia Bonhomme told Fulton County Magistrate Richard Hicks that her only son, Darius Miller, 41, nearly died when his heart stopped, but doctors were able to bring him back.

Doctors at Emory Crawford Long Hospital have told the family Miller may never come out of his vegetative state, Bonhomme said.

“I sit there watching my son suffer,” the mother said. “This violence has to stop. My son is lying there fighting for his life with tubes down him.”

Hicks told the victims’ mother, “I feel for you,” but under Georgia law, he had to grant bail to Apollo Holmes, who has no criminal record. He set it at $100,000.

Holmes, 24, is charged with aggravated assault in the attack on Miller.

Accounts differ regarding what happened the night of Dec. 16 outside two popular Peachtree Street nightclubs. One thing that is known is that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s two daughters, Kai Franklin Graham, 35, and Kali Jamilla Franklin, 29, were present.

In one version, witnesses said a man turned his video camera on Graham, Franklin and a third, unidentified woman, and Miller, a friend of the mayor’s daughters, asked him to stop. At that point, witnesses said, about 10 men attacked Miller.

Page Pate, an attorney for 01 Entertainment, a party promoter filming an event at one of the clubs, has told a different story. He said witnesses told him the fight started after the three women became upset when they thought someone was videotaping them leaving a club about 2:30 a.m.

Miller stepped in and tried to take the video camera as several men crowded around him, Pate said. A scuffle ensued, and Miller ended up striking his head on the pavement, the attorney said.

Holmes’ attorney, Bruce Harvey, brought in several witnesses who were ready to testify. The defendant’s newborn son also was brought to court.

But Hicks opted not to hear from the supporters. Besides granting bail to Holmes, the judge assigned him a 6 p.m. curfew and ordered him to live with his mother in Mableton.

Holmes will continue his job at a rug manufacturing plant but cannot keep working nights as a front-desk security guard at a condominium due to the curfew, Harvey said.

Fulton prosecutor Jack Barrs said outside court that the case remains under investigation.

“There are other arrests coming,” Barrs said without elaborating.

Darius Miller still comatose a week after beatdown

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Hat Tip:  Atlanta Journal Constitution

Personal fitness trainer Darius Miller remained in a coma Wednesday, and Atlanta police continued their investigation into his brutal beating in the parking lot at two popular Midtown nightclubs a week earlier.

Officer James Polite, spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, said more arrests were possible, but he did not know how soon.On Monday, 24-year-old Apollo Holmes turned himself in at the Fulton County Jail, two days after a warrant was issued for his arrest on aggravated assault charges.

Miller, 41, was beaten unconscious during a dispute that witnesses said started when Mayor Shirley Franklin’s daughters complained about being videotaped outside one of the clubs. He remains in critical condition at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, across the street from where he was attacked.

— Rhonda Cook

Apollo Holmes arrested in Darius Miller beatdown, Kai Franklin remains silent

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, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A man wanted in connection with last week’s brutal beating of a personal fitness trainer turned himself in to authorities Monday morning, Atlanta police said.

Apollo Holmes turned himself in at the Fulton County Jail at around 8 a.m., according to Atlanta police spokesman James Polite.

Holmes, 24, has been charged with aggravated assault in the attack early Wednesday on Darius Miller in a parking lot outside two popular Peachtree Street nightclubs in Midtown Atlanta.

Miller, 41, was attacked during a dispute that witnesses said started when Mayor Shirley Franklin’s daughters complained about being videotaped outside one of the clubs, He remained in a coma over the weekend at Emory Crawford Long Hospital.

Police spokeswoman Judy Pal has said the investigation was continuing and that more arrests were possible.

Holmes was “affiliated” with 01 Entertainment, a party promoter that was videotaping an event the company staged at one of the clubs Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, according to a lawyer for 01 Entertainment.

Attorney Page Pate said Holmes was in the parking lot at the time.

Witnesses said the fight started because of objections to videotaping people leaving the clubs.

But the accounts differ on what happened as Kai Franklin Graham, 35, Kali Jamilla Franklin, 29, and a third woman who has not been identified came into an adjoining parking lot at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

In one version, witnesses said as soon as a man turned his video camera on the three women, Miller, who has a number of celebrity clients, asked him to stop. At that point, witnesses said, about 10 men attacked Miller.

But in a telephone interview Saturday, Pate said 01 Entertainment contends the sisters started the argument that led to Miller’s injuries when Graham and her sister demanded the camera from the man they believed had just photographed them.

The attorney said Miller had gone to retrieve his truck and was not present when the dispute began.

“[The sisters] started arguing with them, saying they were already famous and they don’t need to be famous,” Pate said. “He [Miller] heard the argument between the mayor’s daughters and he jumped into the middle of it.”

Pate said Miller tried to take the camera, and two other people came up to help the photographer.

“I don’t think it was as big of a melee as has been described,” Pate said. “There weren’t a lot of blows thrown.”

Then Miller went to his truck,”saying he wants to air this out,” prompting one of the 01 Entertainment contractors to fear Miller was getting a weapon, Pate said.

“As he [Miller] was trying to go into the passenger seat … he fell down and was wrestling with one of them,” Pate said.

Miller, he continued, “got back up and he fell … He fell back … on the pavement with the back of his head.”

Mayor Franklin stays mum, arrest warrant issued in beatdown involving daughter

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 Hat Tip:  By Rhonda Cook, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Atlanta police issued an arrest warrant Saturday for a man suspected of brutally beating a personal fitness trainer and putting him into a coma in a dispute that started when Mayor Shirley Franklin’s daughters complained about being videotaped outside a nightclub.

Apollo Holmes, 24, is wanted on an aggravated assault charge for the early Wednesday attack on Darius Miller in a parking lot outside two popular Peachtree Street nightclubs in Midtown Atlanta, police said.

Police spokeswoman Judy Pal said the investigation was continuing and more arrests were possible.

Holmes was “affiliated” with 01 Entertainment, a party promoter that was videotaping an event the company staged at one of the nightclubs on Tuesday, Christmas night, and early the next morning, according to a lawyer for 01 Entertainment.

Attorney Page Pate said Holmes was in the parking lot at the time.

Miller, 41, remained in a coma Saturday at Emory Crawford Long Hospital.

Witnesses said the fight started because of objections to videotaping people leaving the clubs.

But the accounts differ on what happened as Kai Franklin Graham, 35, Kali Jamilla Franklin, 29, and a third woman who has not been identified came into an adjoining parking lot at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

In one version, witnesses said as soon as a man turned his video camera on the three women, Miller, who has a number of celebrity clients, asked him to stop. At that point, witnesses said, about 10 men attacked Miller.

But in a telephone interview Saturday, Pate said 01 Entertainment contends the sisters started the argument that led to Miller’s injuries when Graham and her sister demanded the camera from the man they believed had just photographed them.

The attorney said Miller had gone to retrieve his truck and was not present when the dispute began.

“[The sisters] started arguing with them, saying they were already famous and they don’t need to be famous,” Pate said. “He heard the argument between the mayor’s daughters and he jumped into the middle of it.”

Pate said Miller tried to take the camera, and two other people came up to help the photographer.

“I don’t think it was as big of a melee as has been described,” Pate said. “There weren’t a lot of blows thrown.”

Then Miller went to his truck, “saying he wants to air this out,” prompting one of the 01 Entertainment contractors to fear Miller was getting a weapon, Pate said.

“As he [Miller] was trying to go into the passenger seat … he fell down and was wrestling with one of them,” Pate said. Miller, he continued, “got back up and he fell again…. He fell back … on the pavement with the back of his head.”

Miller’s publicist hung up the telephone when called for comment Saturday.

Franklin’s daughters have been unavailable for comment since the incident.

On Saturday, the mayor’s office e-mailed a statement from Franklin criticizing the news media. She did not address questions about the latest reports involving her daughters.

“This is an ongoing criminal investigation and as such all comments … are best made to the Atlanta Police Department and not the press,” Franklin said.

“As mayor I stand by APD’s best practice standards for criminal investigations rather than reckless and unprofessional press frenzy,” the statement continued. “As the daughter of an attorney and Pennsylvania judge I stand by my belief that trial by public opinion and reckless media often advance inaccurate and dangerous conclusions.”

Asked about the attorney’s version of what happened, police spokeswoman Pal said, “We’ve got enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant, and we’ll let the justice system handle it from here.”

Pate said the video camera operators did not know the severity of Miller’s injuries or that the mayor’s daughters were involved until Friday, when they saw news accounts of the incident.

“He did not tape the mayor’s daughters,” Pate said of the cameraman in the incident. “He did not even know who they were. I suppose the mayor’s daughters thought they were being taped and became angry.”

Graham pleaded guilty last month to one federal count of illegally structuring a financial transaction. Her plea agreement calls for her to serve three months of home confinement, followed by three years of probation. She will be sentenced in early 2008.

Pate said his clients will meet with detectives within a few days.

“They didn’t know what was happening,” Pate said. “It got out of control and alcohol fueled it.”

I find it particularly interesting that Mayor Franklin doesn’t feel the need to explain the conduct of her children or why one of her girls is constantly mixed up in some bullshit she has no business being involved in.  Public resources are being used in this matter and the role of the police is not not a private thing that they can keep on the hush hush for long.  A good brotha is in a damn coma and somebody needs to explain why.

Drama continues to stalk Kai Franklin

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 Darius Miller

Hat Tip: By Megan Matteucci, Steve Visser, Atlanta Journal Constitution

A professional fitness trainer with a celebrity clientele —- including Usher and several National Football League players —- remained in a coma Thursday after being severely beaten in a downtown Atlanta parking lot.

Darius Miller, 41, was escorting Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s two daughters about 2:50 a.m. Wednesday when a group of men tried to videotape the women as they left a nightclub on Peachtree Street downtown, according to his cousin, Ken Miller.

“These guys were trying to videotape Shirley Franklin’s daughters and Darius tried to stop them,” Miller said Thursday. “Ten guys ganged up on him. They beat him until he was unconscious.”

Ken Miller was not present when the attack happened, but had eaten dinner with his cousin earlier on Christmas Day. He said he later spoke to several of the women who were with his cousin that night.

Mayor Shirley Franklin confirmed that her daughters, Kai Franklin Graham, 35, and Kali Jamilla Franklin, 29, were with Miller and a couple of friends when the videotaping took place.

The mayor, who said she is skiing in Colorado with her 8-year-old grandson, said she did not know Miller but was concerned about his well-being.

“I’ve talked to my daughters but I don’t know anything officially,” Franklin said. “I don’t know why 15 guys —- or 10 people or five —- would jump on one person regardless of what was said.”

Atlanta police spokesman Officer James Polite said the men turned on Miller “and physically assaulted him to the point where he had to go to the hospital.”

“He was just outnumbered and overpowered,” Polite said.

Miller was taken to nearby Emory Crawford Long Hospital, where he remained in the intensive care unit Thursday evening.

“We’re trying to wait it out and keep saying our prayers,” Ken Miller said.

Darius Miller had Christmas dinner with his family, including his cousin, and then took Franklin’s two daughters and several other women to Django and Verve, nightclubs on Peachtree.

Darius Miller is a career fitness trainer who also has dabbled in entertainment promotions. He worked at an Atlanta gym for eight to 10 years before starting his own business about five years ago, his cousin said.

According to his cousin, Darius Miller has trained Usher, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Takeo Spikes, former New York Giants player Carlos Emmons and “Cosby Show” star Keisha Knight Pulliam, who visited Miller in the hospital Wednesday, his cousin said.

One of the mayor’s daughters who was with Miller that night was Kai Franklin Graham, who recently pleaded guilty in federal court in South Carolina to money laundering charges involving cash transfers from her ex-husband.

The ex-husband, Tremayne Graham, is serving a life sentence in a high-security federal prison in Kentucky for his role in a massive cocaine trafficking operation.

Franklin Graham has not yet been sentenced, but under her plea agreement with federal prosecutors she is expected to avoid prison.

Police said the attack on Miller occurred in a parking lot in the 400 block of Peachtree Street, but they would not confirm whether the women involved were Franklin’s daughters.

In a police report released to the media, no information on witnesses was included and the description of the fight said only that the assailants were “videotaping individuals walking to and away from the parking lot.”

Franklin said she did not instruct the police or city officials to cover up information that her daughters were with Miller. Franklin referred all questions to police Chief Richard Pennington or his staff.

“I haven’t talked to anyone officially … and I’m not involved in the investigation,” Franklin said. “Chief Pennington is in charge of his section of the city. … I’m sitting in 100 inches of snow on vacation.”

Police have made no arrests, Polite said. He did not know how many attackers were being sought.

If y’all ask me, the Mayor needs to explain why people keep getting hurt behind her daughter.

Kai Franklin, daughter of Atlanta Mayor, pleads guilty in drug trafficking probe

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Hat Tip:  By Alan Judd, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Greenville, S.C. — A daughter of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin pleaded guilty today to federal charges that she illegally concealed proceeds from her former husband’s transcontinental drug-trafficking ring.

Kai Franklin Graham, 35, the oldest of the mayor’s three children, pleaded guilty to structuring financial transactions in a way that avoided scrutiny from federal authorities.

 

While her former husband, Tremayne Graham, 34, was a fugitive from justice, she converted cash from him into 14 postal money orders totaling $14,000. She admitted going to seven Atlanta area post offices in a single day to avoid federal financial rules that would require reports of transactions exceeding $2,000.

Franklin Graham is likely to be sentenced to three months of home confinement and three years of probation. However, if she fails to comply with terms of her plea agreement with federal prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Henry M. Herlong Jr. could increase the sentence to as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Herlong will formally sentence Franklin Graham in 60 to 90 days.

The mayor sat in a federal courtroom in Greenville this morning and watched as her daughter entered the plea. She declined to comment afterward.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Moore said Franklin Graham is expected to cooperate in several aspects of an investigation into her former husband’s drug business, which moved at least 2,200 pounds of Mexican cocaine from Los Angeles through Atlanta to South Carolina.

He said authorities will question her about a double homicide in Atlanta linked to the case. One of the victims, Ulysses Hackett III, was a co-defendant of Tremayne Graham’s and was thought to be considering an offer to testify against him in exchange for a lenient sentence.

A federal grand jury in South Carolina indicted Tremayne Graham in April 2004 in the drug case, which has resulted in more than a dozen guilty pleas. While he was out of jail on a $400,000 bond, Hackett and his girlfriend, Misty Denise Carter, were shot to death in her Virginia-Highland townhouse.

Atlanta police never solved the case, but federal prosecutors have alleged Graham ordered the killings.

According to earlier testimony, Graham then told an associate that he had moved into the mayor’s house, hoping to signal he feared he, too, would be killed. Soon, he fled to California. From there, authorities allege, he sent couriers with bags of cash to his wife.

Although Franklin Graham pleaded guilty to financial transactions conducted on Nov. 12, 2004, Moore said in court that the government could have proved that she engaged in additional transactions to hide the source of her cash.

Franklin Graham filed for divorce in January 2005.

Authorities captured Graham in June 2005 in California. Prosecutors later alleged he lied about his former wife’s role in his drug business ” one factor that prompted the judge to impose the maximum sentence against him: life with no chance of parole.

Must be nice to have Mama’s pull when you’re jammed up in a drug sting.  If it was you or me, they woulda charged us as accessories and sent us up for a cool quarter-mandatory.  That’s 25 years, for all y’all who ain’t know.

Kai Franklin’s black fantasy life unravels

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/27/07

He sold custom cars to rich celebrities. His clients included people like the football player Ray Lewis and the rap star Ludacris.

He sold cocaine embossed with a prominent symbol of hip-hop culture: Hummer.

Tremayne Graham was a player. Then his partner in the drug business says he introduced Graham to his future wife in an Atlanta strip club. If anything, Graham’s life became even more infused with money and status.

The couple bought a mini-mansion in the suburbs.

She amassed $120,000 of jewelry.

And when her mother became Atlanta’s first female mayor, they celebrated at the side of Shirley Franklin.

But Graham and Kai Franklin’s opulent lifestyle — detailed in interviews and court testimony, as well as in other public records — came to an emphatic end in 2004. A federal grand jury indicted Graham for his role in a drug ring that smuggled at least 2,200 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Atlanta and South Carolina. Based on figures routinely used by various government agencies, the drugs had a street value between $15 million and $35 million.

Graham, 33, pleaded guilty in 2006. Last month, after prosecutors alleged he ordered the killing of a co-defendant and his girlfriend, a judge sentenced Graham to life in prison.

Now, federal agents say they are investigating whether Franklin, 34, who divorced Graham in 2005, helped her former husband launder tens of thousands of dollars of drug money.

Neither Franklin, the oldest of the mayor’s three children, nor her lawyer will comment on the investigation. Graham’s lawyers have not responded to requests for an interview.

In court, Graham’s lawyers contended Franklin did not know he was a drug dealer because he never told her. The lawyers said he explained away his wads of cash — as much as $60,000 or $70,000 at a time — as gambling winnings.

Prosecutors responded with a question: How, they asked, could she not know?

Longtime drug history

Graham started dealing drugs early.

He worked as a courier for a South Carolina drug dealer while attending Clemson University in the early 1990s, according to testimony presented last month during Graham’s sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenville. After college, Graham moved to Atlanta. When he met Kai Franklin a few years later, he had become an established cocaine dealer and had moved into a leadership role in a drug ring called the Sin City Mafia, according to the recent testimony.

His car dealership, 404 Motorsports on Cheshire Bridge Road, was a money-losing front intended to give an appearance of legitimate prosperity, said Scott King, Graham’s partner in selling both cars and drugs.

“In the first couple of months, we done great business at the store, and everything was going good,” said King, who received a 24-year prison sentence in the drug case. “And then things started taking a turn for the worse. But we wanted to keep the business afloat because of the nature of everybody in the Atlanta area thinking that we were great businessmen.”

The Web site for 404 Motorsports showed an array of heavily accessorized luxury cars: Hummers, BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Bentleys, Ferraris. One page featured nothing but the massive stereo speakers the company offered for installation. Another page showed celebrity clients: rappers such as Ludacris and P. Diddy, sports stars such as Hines Ward and Jamal Anderson, even Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in south DeKalb County.

In a 2003 article, the weekly newspaper Creative Loafing called 404 Motorsports a “luxury car mecca.” The article described the showroom’s “club-inspired interior,” decorated with black leather furniture and autographed jerseys from professional athletes such as the Braves’ Andruw Jones.

The auto store, King said, made him and Graham look like something other than drug dealers.

In his testimony last month, King said he dated Kali Franklin, Kai’s younger sister, “off and on” for two years.

One evening, King said, he, Graham and the Franklin sisters all were at the same strip club. That’s when King introduced Graham to his future wife.

Kai Franklin, who had graduated from the University of Virginia in 1999, worked for her father’s company, Franklin and Wilson Airport Concessions Inc., which operates three retail outlets at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Testimony indicated she quit around the time she and Graham were married in December 2001.

The ceremony took place between Shirley Franklin’s election and inauguration. King was the best man. The rhythm and blues performer Peabo Bryson — whose personal manager is David Franklin, Kai’s father — sang at the wedding.

Days later, Graham escorted his new wife to her mother’s inauguration events. Graham also brought King, his fellow drug dealer, to the event (and, King said, to Christmas dinner at the mayor’s house).

Already, court records show, Graham’s drug ring had accumulated about $10 million in profits. This money, prosecutors say, fueled a streak of acquisitions for the newlyweds: a $650,000 house in Cobb County, jewelry, Range Rover and Lincoln sport utility vehicles.

Graham traveled regularly to California to oversee drug shipments to Atlanta, according to court testimony, and even considered moving there. He was in Los Angeles in April 2004 when his wife called him with bad news, King testified: Federal agents with a search warrant were searching their home.

A federal grand jury in South Carolina had indicted Graham in a case that ultimately would net a dozen guilty pleas. Graham returned to Atlanta and turned himself in. A judge released him on a $400,000 bond, secured by an Atlanta bail bond company, Free At Last.

House arrest

While he waited to go on trial, Graham remained under house arrest in the 5,000-square-foot home he shared with his wife in an east Cobb subdivision called Woodruff Plantation. An electronic device attached to his ankle tracked his movements.

The neighbors knew nothing about Graham’s drug business — or much else about the couple, said Katherine Todd, an officer in the subdivision’s homeowners association.

“They didn’t socialize with anyone in the neighborhood,” Todd said.

It is a small subdivision, with 38 large, but closely situated, houses. When Graham and Franklin had a pool installed, Todd said, neighbors complained that the couple wouldn’t stop workers who tramped on their lawns.

Graham and Franklin “never seemed to want to follow the rules,” Todd said. “They weren’t the ideal, fun neighbors to have.”

Even while Graham was under house arrest, he continued to oversee the distribution of drugs from California, according to testimony by another defendant, Eric Rivera. And, King testified, Graham became worried because Ulysses Hackett III, a drug courier who also worked for 404 Motorsports, had been arrested while making a delivery and could give authorities damning information.

Prosecutors allege Graham acquired a gun from a fellow drug dealer and engaged yet another associate in 2004 to kill Hackett and his girlfriend, Misty Denise Carter. Atlanta police never made arrests in the case. Federal authorities recently took over the investigation.

Weeks after Hackett died on Labor Day weekend, just before his trial was scheduled to begin in South Carolina, Graham snipped his electronic ankle bracelet and fled.

He took most of his wife’s jewelry, she said later, and left behind a $5,000-a-month mortgage and his $400,000 bail bond.

Graham quickly settled into life as a fugitive in Los Angeles. One of the first things he did there, court records say, was buy a Ferrari.

The divorce

Kai Franklin barely hesitated before filing for divorce.

In January 2005, she told the Cobb County Superior Court that her husband had abandoned her. She said she had not been in contact with Graham since Nov. 1, didn’t know his whereabouts and couldn’t get in touch with him.

A judge granted the divorce four months later. He awarded Franklin the house in Woodruff Plantation, but did not order Graham to pay alimony.

“It was very difficult for her, having to go through a divorce proceeding,” said James Dearing, Franklin’s lawyer. “It was not an easy thing for her to do.”

But the recent testimony and other public records suggest it may have been a divorce on paper only.

Franklin and Graham remained in regular contact, according to evidence presented during his sentencing hearing. Graham’s co-defendants testified that while he was a fugitive, he sent drug money to Franklin: one bag of cash holding $25,000, another with $20,000. She also got portions of $150,000 that Graham invested in her father’s business, King testified. David Franklin said last week that the investment never occurred.

In California, King said, Graham bought a pre-paid cellular telephone to call only his wife, thinking it would be difficult to trace. King referred to the device as “the Kai phone.”

“They would talk about different things,” King said, “but sometimes about paying bills.”

He said Franklin regularly sent bills to Graham at the house where he was hiding in suburban Los Angeles. King said Graham told him “he still had responsibilities to take care of for Kai.”

Graham used postal money orders to pay Franklin’s bills, an Internal Revenue Service agent said. They apparently took pains to make the transactions difficult to track.

Franklin, agent Wayne Wright testified, bought the money orders in a “structured fashion” to avoid scrutiny. She had each money order issued for less than $3,000, the amount that triggers reporting requirements designed to detect illicit transactions. And she allegedly bought multiple money orders at multiple post offices on the same day, or in different lines in the same post office.

Wright said authorities have obtained about 60 such money orders.

Other alleged discussions between Franklin and Graham during his time as a fugitive were of a more personal nature.

When Graham wanted to see his child from a previous relationship, Rivera testified, Franklin picked up the boy from his mother and dropped him off for a flight out of DeKalb Peachtree Airport on a chartered jet. Rivera said he ferried drug money back to Graham in California on the same flight.

The visit troubled King.

“I just told Tremayne that he has to tighten up,” King testified, “because he can’t let something like that let the authorities track him through his son.”

Rivera said he accompanied the boy back to Atlanta several days later. He left the child with Franklin, he said, in her Cobb County home.

The capture

Authorities captured Graham in June 2005. In his California house, they found more than 500 pounds of cocaine, $1.9 million in cash and five weapons, one of which court records described as an assault rifle.

This time, Graham was held without bond. In March 2006, he agreed to plead guilty to charges that could send him to prison for several decades. But prosecutors promised to seek a lighter sentence of 35 years — if he cooperated with their continuing investigation.

During a lie detector exam, court documents say, Graham said Franklin didn’t know she had handled drug money.

The examiner told Graham the machine showed he was lying. Graham, the examiner later reported, just laughed.

Later, Graham told the judge in his case: “I’m sorry that my story wasn’t embellished or sensationalized enough to the agents’ liking. But my plea agreement didn’t require that.”

Regardless, prosecutors, for that and other factors, revoked their deal, and the judge handed down the maximum sentence: life, with no chance for parole.

Graham’s lawyers said they would appeal. For now, he is serving his time at the maximum-security U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

Franklin filed for protection from her creditors in federal bankruptcy court in March 2005. She said she was unemployed, broke and more than $300,000 in debt.

Little remains of Graham and Franklin’s old life: The luxury auto dealership, closed. The money, seized by federal agents. The big suburban house, empty.

Weeds sprout between the brick pavers in the driveway. The grass needs cutting. The shrubs sprawl wildly.

And on the front door, a document posted by the IRS lays claim to the house as government property.

Atlanta Mayor’s daughter, Kai Franklin, caught up in drug prosecution

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Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/23/07

Federal agents are investigating whether a daughter of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin helped launder money for her former husband’s transcontinental drug trafficking ring.

Kai Franklin, 34, handled tens of thousands of dollars from cocaine sales in 2004 and 2005, according to court records and testimony last month in South Carolina.

Franklin twice received bags of drug money — one containing $25,000, the other $20,000 — at the direction of her former husband, Tremayne Graham, one of his co-defendants testified. In addition, another defendant said, Franklin received portions of $150,000 in drug money invested in an airport concessions company run by her father, the mayor’s former husband.

The allegations surfaced at an April 17 hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenville, S.C., at which a judge sentenced Graham to life in prison. Graham, 33, admitted his role in shipping at least 1,000 kilograms of Mexican cocaine from Los Angeles to Atlanta and South Carolina.

Federal agents said in court that they have established a paper trail of cash transfers from Graham to Franklin in the seven months that he was a fugitive from drug charges.

Franklin divorced Graham in 2005. Efforts to reach her in recent days were unsuccessful. Her lawyer, James Dearing, said she would have no comment.

Authorities have filed no charges against Franklin, nor have they presented all the evidence that might incriminate her. Much of the testimony concerning her came from defendants in the drug case, who cooperated with investigators in exchange for lighter sentences.

But the sentencing transcript and other court documents reveal the extent to which Franklin is implicated in the drug case.

An Internal Revenue Service agent testified that both the IRS and the U.S. attorney in South Carolina are investigating Kai Franklin for alleged money laundering.

And Mark Moore, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Graham, gave a judge a broad outline of Franklin’s possible involvement:

“Her husband is a fugitive. OK? She knows where he is. She isn’t telling law enforcement where he is. And, in fact, what she is doing is taking dope money from him while she knows he is a fugitive. … Taking money from a drug dealer that you know or suspect to be drug proceeds is money laundering.”

Federal officials said this week they could not comment on the status of the investigation.

Prosecutors alleged that Graham lied when he told federal agents that Franklin was not involved in his drug business — partly to protect her, but also to minimize his own culpability.

Moore told a judge that Franklin “may have very critical information” about Graham’s connections to the killings of another defendant and that man’s girlfriend in Atlanta three years ago. Prosecutors allege Graham ordered the killings of Ulysses Hackett III and Misty Denise Carter. No one has been charged in the double homicide.

A co-defendant testified that Graham told him shortly after the killing that he planned to move into the mayor’s house to deflect suspicion from himself by making it appear he feared for his life.

Aides to the mayor would not answer questions about whether Graham actually went to her house or, if he did, for how long or if his wife accompanied him.

The mayor would not discuss the case in detail.

“I ran for mayor — none of my children did,” she said last week. “They are subject [to] the law, as they should be. They are expected to live their lives accordingly.”

In court last month, one of Graham’s lawyers said some of the money Graham sent Kai Franklin came from gambling winnings. The lawyer, Jessica Salvini, acknowledged Graham had told federal agents that his wife had seen him with as much as $60,000 or $70,000 in cash. But Salvini said Graham had not told Franklin he was a drug dealer.

Federal authorities allege that Graham was a key member of a drug ring called the Sin City Mafia. Authorities also allege that the money Graham sent Franklin came from his drug business, and that she had to have known that.

Franklin and Graham remained in regular contact, even after he skipped bond and she filed for divorce, citing abandonment, according to testimony at his sentencing hearing. Two of Graham’s co-defendants testified that he sent drug money to Franklin while he was a fugitive.

Eric Rivera, who received a 40-month sentence, testified that Graham told him to take $25,000 in cash to his Cobb County house, where Franklin was then living alone. Graham gave him a security code to enter the residence, Rivera testified, and he left the cash on the stairs.

Another time, Rivera said, he put $20,000 of drug money in a duffel bag at Graham’s instruction and waited outside his Atlanta hotel for Kai Franklin. When she arrived, he testified, he put the money in the back seat of her Lincoln Navigator and she drove away.

Graham allegedly funneled more money to Franklin through her father’s airport concessions business.

Scott King, who was Graham’s partner in the drug business, testified that Graham invested $150,000 of their money in David Franklin’s Atlanta-based company, Franklin and Wilson Airport Concessions Inc.

King, who has been sentenced to 24 years in prison, said he expected to regularly receive checks from Franklin and Wilson, giving the impression that he had legitimate income. Instead, he testified, the company sent a check each month only to Kai Franklin.

Prosecutors did not establish in court when the alleged payments were made or how much of the $150,000 ended up with Kai Franklin.

David Franklin said Tuesday the investment “never happened. I wouldn’t let strangers put any money in.”

Franklin’s company operates three retail outlets at the city-owned Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The firm’s contracts are approved by the City Council, but the mayor has said she played no role in selecting the company. The couple divorced in 1986.

Kai Franklin made no mention of payments from her father’s company when she filed for bankruptcy in March 2005.

In court papers, she said her only income was $2,000 a month in unspecified “family contributions.”

She listed debts of more than $300,000, not counting the mortgage on a house in Cobb County. She said she had just $1,250 in the bank, $250 in cash and jewelry worth $10,000.

Witnesses at her former husband’s sentencing contradicted her claims, however.

King said Franklin routinely sent bills to Graham while he was a fugitive. Graham, King said, paid them through postal money orders. IRS Agent Wayne Wright testified that federal agents obtained about 60 such money orders that paid credit card and mortgage bills for Graham and Franklin. Wright said Franklin bought the money orders in a “structured fashion.”

“There were multiple money orders that were purchased either at multiple post offices in Atlanta on the same day or … in the same post office on the same day at different lines,” Wright testified.

He said each money order was issued for less than $3,000. That amount triggers federal reporting requirements intended to detect illicit transactions.

The “structuring,” Wright said, “could be an offense in and of itself. … It’s also an indicator of money laundering.”

Franklin used money from Graham to make payments on two Porsche sports utility vehicles while he was a fugitive, witnesses said.

Both cars ended up in the hands of a Detroit-based drug gang, the Black Mafia Family, court records show. Prosecutors said the gang had invested in a luxury auto dealership, 404 Motorsports, that Graham ran on Cheshire Bridge Road.

Moore, the prosecutor, asked Wright, the IRS agent: “Would it be hard for [Franklin] to deny that perhaps she was aware that the source of the money was drug dealing when, at that point, her husband was indicted for drug dealing and was a fugitive from law enforcement?”

Wright answered, “That is correct.”