Gangmember flips in case of murdered SF tourist

January 4, 2012 6:21:19 PM PST
Something happened in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday that few people there have ever seen. A gang member flipped and actually testified against his former friends in a murder case. The victim was a college student visiting San Francisco two years ago.

The witness is in his early 20s. He says he was with the killers when the murder happened. The victim was 26-year-old Michael Bailey, a college student from Louisiana, who was visiting friends in San Francisco during the Christmas break two years ago. Those charged with the murder are Lance Molina, Arieal Kittles, Maurice Lige, and the accused shooter William Jones.

That night, Bailey and two other friends partied at a club. Investigators say he met Kittles there and offered to drive her home when she told him she lost her car keys.

"He acts as a Good Samaritan. A young woman asks for a ride. He offers to do so and little did he know that he was being setup for a brutal robbery," District Attorney George Gascon explained.

The witness testified he had been drinking with the suspects at the Alice Griffith projects in Hunters Point. He said that when the car drove up, William Jones ordered Bailey and his friends to come out and hand over their possessions. The witness says Bailey grabbed Jones' gun and tussled with him.

"The dude was getting jumped," he testified Wednesday.

"What happened after that?" the prosecutor asked.

"Billy shot him three times, once in the ribs, once in the leg, and once in the head," the witness replied.

There was extremely tight security inside and outside the courtroom. Visitors walked through a metal detector. Extra deputies were on guard.

"Some of our witnesses have received threats and we believe that these are credible threats," Gascon said.

Gang task force investigators say witnesses like this one testify at great risk.

"It's very difficult and very rare, yes," Len Broberg with the task force said. "Now, they're labeled as a snitch and they put themselves in danger and their families are in danger."

However, prosecutors say witness cooperation can seal convictions. Defense lawyers disagree.

"They are very afraid of going to prison for life, so they're going to say whatever the cops want them to say, whatever the DA wants them to say," defense attorney Ken Quigley argued.

Police sources say the witness is in a secret relocation program which means he is out of the city, out of the county, or perhaps even out of the state. He has been granted immunity for his testimony and his preliminary hearing is expected to end at the end of this week.