Brian Arcenio Gaither‘s attempt to withdraw his plea of “guilty” in connection with the murder of 18-year-old Latisha Frazier was denied Friday by Judge William Jackson, who said the court believed that Gaither, 25, was adequately represented when he made the plea.
Gaither was one of six young people suspected in the August 2010 beating death of Frazier. All but one, Johnnie Sweet, have pleaded guilty in connection with the case. According to a proffer of evidence from one suspect, the group believed Frazier had stolen $900 from Sweet.
For this, Frazier was beaten, stomped, bound, taped, gagged, prodded and choked. Her head was covered with a sheet. Tossed into a closet, she finally died. Her body was thrown into a dumpster and hasn’t been found, though it’s believed to be in a landfill.
Gaither pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in connection with the case on the eve of going to trial in November. He sought to withdraw his plea early this year. In that request he told the court that his attorneys had “refused to indicate his concerns to the court and told him that he had no option except to resolve the case by plea.”
Jackson, in not allowing Gaither to withdraw his plea, disagreed with Gaither’s claim that his previous attorney was incompetent and said that allowing him to withdraw the plea would not be fair or just.
“It is clear to me that well before he entered his plea there was a systematic attempt by Mr. Gaither to manipulate and avoid going to trial,” Jackson said. “I don’t credit one bit that he didn’t have competent counsel. We’ve probably had more pretrial hearings in this case than any other case I’ve presided over.”
Court documents state that during a jailhouse call in September Gaither told someone, “We’re trying to get it [the trial] pushed to next year so I can get in front of a new judge.”
At the hearing Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh played two different jailhouse calls from late 2012. In the calls, Gaither said, “I pled guilty to 32 years. Ain’t nobody got no motherf— life, man. I’ll come home when I’m 48… or 36. I’m just waiting to get sentenced so I can get tatted up, get ripped up.”
Kavanaugh argued that the calls were proof that Gaither understands the criminal justice system.
“These last two calls show that in his mind he was ready to be sent off to the Feds and get time off for good behavior,” Kavanaugh said. “What we’re dealing with is a change of heart. He has not asserted legal innocence.”
Gaither’s new defense attorney, Archie Nichols, argued that Gaither received “less than adequate legal advice” from his previous counsel, Eugene Ohm.
Jackson said a plethora of motions filed on Gaither’s behalf by Mr. Ohm had “kept the court quite busy.”
Jackson also recounted the questions he asked Gaither when he first pled guilty. Jackson asked Gaither if he was satisfied with Ohm’s legal advice, and Gaither said he was, Jackson said.
Several of Frazier’s family members attended the hearing Friday. Her mother, Caroline Frazier, said outside the courtroom that Gaither’s plea being official “can’t bring back my daughter, but I feel okay.”
Gaither is scheduled to be sentenced April 9.