Conspirator found guilty in Tulsa murder-for-hire of Neal Sweeney
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2012
12/13/12 at 7:23 AM
A third man was convicted of murder and conspiracy counts Wednesday in the Neal Sweeney murder-for-hire case.
District Attorney Tim Harris said verdicts at three trials show that this type of contract killing won't be tolerated in Tulsa County.
Jurors imposed two life prison terms upon finding Alonzo "Jack" Johnson, 41, of Broken Arrow, guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The only punishment alternative for murder in this case was life without parole. The jury did not exercise that option, but Johnson was also fined $10,000 on the murder count.
With Johnson being found guilty of conspiracy, the trial moved to a sentencing stage, where prosecutors were able to use his felony record in an effort to enhance his punishment for the conspiracy conviction.
Harris introduced documents indicating that Johnson accumulated 10 felony convictions in 1992 and 2003 for auto burglary, attempted auto larceny, possession of a firearm as a felon, and concealing stolen property.
Harris said he will request at a Jan. 4 formal sentencing that District Judge Tom Gillert run the two life sentences consecutively.
Sweeney, 63, was shot once in the head on Sept. 4, 2008, at his business, Retail Fuels Marketing, 3158 S. 108th East Ave. The former University of Tulsa football standout pass receiver died the next day.
"Neal Sweeney was an innocent victim of a gang of killers," First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said in a closing argument Wednesday.
The jury "got a real-life look at how co-conspirators work," Drummond said.
Regarding the other four defendants, Mohammed Aziz was the instigator, Allen Shields was the money man, Fred Shields Jr. was the facilitator and Terrico Bethel was the hit man, Drummond indicated.
Gillert instructed jurors that by law, when a conspiracy to commit a crime is entered into, the conspirators are responsible for all that is said and done in furtherance of the conspiracy by the co-conspirators. If two or more people conspire to commit a crime, each is criminally responsible for the acts of his co-conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy, or where the connection between the acts and the conspiracy is reasonably apparent.
Prosecutors alleged that Johnson took a van from a parking lot in Muskogee after a man who knew Johnson - and who did not own the van - gave Johnson a key to the vehicle, which was subsequently reported as stolen.
Prosecutors alleged that the van was used by Bethel in traveling to and from the shooting scene.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Mark Lyons maintained that the prosecution "can't prove there was a conspiracy."
Lyons asserted that the plea deals the prosecution offered Aziz and Allen Shields in exchange for their testimony "perverted" justice and were "absolutely wrong."
Aziz, a convenience store operator, has said he agreed to pay $10,000 to have Sweeney killed and wound up paying $11,100.
Retail Fuels Marketing had stopped regular delivery of fuel to Aziz's convenience stores because Aziz was not making payments, and the resulting lack of gasoline created major financial problems for him, testimony indicated.
Aziz pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder, and prosecutors dismissed the murder and conspiracy counts against him. His deal calls for a 25- to 35-year prison term, but he has not yet been sentenced.
Bethel was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life without parole for murder plus 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder.
At another trial, Fred Shields Jr. was sentenced to two consecutive life prison terms - one of them without parole - for first-degree murder and conspiracy.
Allen Shields pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count and testified for the prosecution at a preliminary hearing after being offered a deal calling for a 10-year probation and no prison time. He died in 2011 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Harris said "a deal with the devil" was made in plea negotiations, but he said it was necessary to pierce the conspiracy and also to have a live witness in court - Aziz - after Shields killed himself.
Original Print Headline: Man guilty in murder plot
Bill Braun 918-581-8455
Alonzo "Jack" Johnson: He is the third person convicted in the murder of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney.
Tulsa District Attorney Tim Harris talks after the Neal Sweeney murder trial Wednesday. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World