4th Sweeney murder case defendant given trial date
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Friday, June 03, 2011
6/03/11 at 2:49 AM
Read more about the Neal Sweeney case, view biographies of the key players and
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Two years after the first charge was filed in the case, all four murder-conspiracy defendants who are accused in the 2008 killing of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney are now scheduled for jury trials.
A Tulsa County judge on Thursday scheduled an Oct. 17 trial for Mohammed Aziz, who prosecutors allege paid money to have Sweeney killed.
District Judge Tom Gillert entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of Aziz, 58, who is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and soliciting for first-degree murder.
In April, District Judge Tom Gillert set an Oct. 17 trial for Alonzo Johnson.
Gillert has not yet decided whether Johnson, 39, and Aziz will be tried jointly or separately.
Lawyers for Aziz filed a May 11 motion asserting that Aziz should stand trial separately because it is anticipated that his theory of the case will be antagonistic to the theories of other defendants.
At a hearing Thursday, District Attorney Tim Harris maintained that the burden should be on the defense to show there are antagonistic defenses that would justify separate trials.
Gillert could resolve that issue at a June 29 hearing.
The judge previously set a Nov. 28 trial for Terrico Bethel, 25, the alleged triggerman in what police categorize as a murder-for-hire case.
Bethel alone was charged two years ago - on June 4, 2009 - with other defendants being added later.
A Jan. 23 trial is slated for Fred Shields Jr., 37.
Bethel, Shields and Johnson are each charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Sweeney, 63, was shot in the head Sept. 4, 2008, at his business, Retail Fuels Marketing, 3158 S. 108th East Ave.
He died the next day.
A former University of Tulsa football standout whose business sold gasoline to convenience stores, Sweeney had been involved in a lawsuit against Aziz, who operated convenience stores that bought fuel from Sweeney's business, according to prosecutors.
A fifth defendant in the case, Allen Shields, 34, died in April of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He had pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count, and he testified for the prosecution at the preliminary hearing for the other four defendants after being offered a plea deal calling for a 10-year probation and no prison time.
At that October hearing, Allen Shields indicated that Aziz paid $10,000 in connection with the killing.
Allen Shields was a brother of Fred Shields and a cousin of Johnson.
Bill Braun 918-581-8455
Mohammed Aziz (left) and Alonzo Johnson: District Judge Tom Gillert has not yet decided whether Aziz, 58, and Johnson, 39, will be tried jointly or separately.