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D.A.: Member of California-based FAIM Irish Mafia put out hit on attorney

July 25, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
D.A.: Member of California-based FAIM Irish Mafia put out hit on attorney

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A defendant in an intricate murder case involving a West Contra Costa, California gang, a Mexican drug cartel, and an Aryan Brotherhood drug dealer faces a new allegation: that the suspect put out a hit on a former cartel leader’s lawyer who agreed to testify against him.

According to San Jose Mercury News, 42-year-old Coby Phillips is one of the founding members of the Family Affiliated Irish Mafia (FAIM), a street gang from the Crockett/Rodeo area that also operates in the California prison system.

Phillips has faced a myriad of serious criminal charges over the past decade, including the murder of his former friend Darryl Grockett, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, who also took a plea deal in a federal drug case.

He stood trial for Grockett’s murder back in 2013. However, the judge declared a mistrial after the jury remained deadlocked.

Authorities allege that as Phillips awaited his second trial, he befriended a dangerous felon, Jason Soletti, at the County Jail where he was being held.

Soletti, who is currently serving a life sentence, has been linked to various jailhouse attacks including several stabbings with homemade weapons.

Coincidentally, Soletti was represented by the same defense lawyer who arranged a plea deal for Sergio Vega-Robles, a former Sinaloa Cartel member who ironically agreed to testify against Phillips. The former cartel member faced multiple drug-trafficking felony charges, along with the possibility of deportation, but was permitted to remain in the U.S. as part of a plea bargain.

Law enforcement officials discovered a cloth garrote in Soletti’s prison cell, along with shanks in Phillips’ cell.

Police believe that one of those uncovered weapons was planned to be used to murder Vega-Robles’ lawyer during a meeting between her and Soletti. However, the hit never happened.

During a grand jury hearing back in 2015, the attorney testified that prosecutors warned her to stay away from the jail.

Daniel Horowitz, Phillips’ attorney, referred the charges against his client as a “Hail Mary” by prosecutors. He further argued that prosecutors are simply desperate to keep Phillips behind bars. He suggested that the dangerous duo were nowhere close to friends, and that Phillips instead viewed Soletti as a threat.

According to Horowitz, Soletti was an alleged member of the Aryan Brotherhood which would have made him a rival of Phillips because of a dispute over his unwillingness to kill witnesses who were against Aryan Brotherhood members.

Horowitz stated, “(Phillips is) going to be placating this guy, making nice to him, and trying to keep him out of his way. Any allegation that they plotted against (Vega-Robles’ attorney) is absolutely ridiculous.”

“(Phillips and Vega-Robles’ attorney) don’t love each other; she represented somebody who theoretically lied a lot in order to prevent his deportation so he knew the drug cartels would kill him. She represented him. But that’s not really a motive to hurt somebody, and attorneys do that all the time,” Horowitz added.

Authorities have disputed Horowitz’s argument, citing that they retrieved a note, believed to belong to Phillips, in which he states that Soletti planned to kill the attorney on his behalf.

That letter came to fruition after an informant within the jail testified that he had known Phillips for years and decided to come forward to authorities. The man was released from prison and was relocated in exchange for his testimony.

Horowitz denied that the note was written by Phillips saying that there is no evidence that it was written in his handwriting.

Prosecutor Tom Kensok countered Horowitz’s assertion, stating that he has multiple writing samples from Phillips and has testimony confirming the note was written by him.

Phillips is scheduled to face trial in September, where he faces charges that he plotted to kill Grockett, who was found shot to death in 2004.

According to reports, although no eyewitnesses of the homicide have come forward, investigators have formulated a murder case against both Phillips and Jose Vega-Robles, which includes having recruited a number of former gang members to testify, among the witnesses includes Jose Vega-Robles’ brother, Sergio Vega-Robles.

In another grand jury hearing in 2015, Sergio Vega-Robles testified that he, Phillips, and his brother headed a drug-trafficking organization in the Bay Area during the mid-2000s, that involved shipping meth from Mexico to Los Angeles, which was then sent to the Bay Area.

Sergio Vega-Robles testified that he established safe houses in Benicia, Fairfield, as well as throughout Contra Costa County. He also told police that they paid a Richmond police officer for details regarding drug investigations.

Additionally, Vega-Robles testified that following the murder, his brother acknowledged that he, Phillips, and a cousin of the Vega-Robles brothers, who remains at large, shot Grockett to death and left him in his truck.

Horowitz has also denied these accusations, saying his client had no motive to kill Grockett and that cellphone records indicate the victim was still alive after he and Phillips orchestrated a drug deal that occurred earlier that day.

Two separate juries who reviewed the evidence separately against Jose Vega-Robles and Phillips, in 2012 and 2013, found Vega-Robles guilty but remained deadlocked on Phillips.

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