Judge tosses indictment against ‘thugs’ lawyer

A state judge on Wednesday threw out Baton Rouge lawyer Peter Q. John’s January 2010 indictment on conspiracy, obstruction of justice, theft and perjury charges.

District Judge Mike Erwin agreed with John and his attorney, Ferdinand Valteau, that East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors waited too long to bring John to trial. John and Valteau argued the two-year statute of limitations prevented John’s prosecution from continuing.

“Now we’re past three years,” Erwin said from the bench. “It seems like to me that the defendant’s constitutional rights have been, I won’t say trampled on, but this matter’s been hanging around too long.”

John, who has advertised himself as “The Thugs Lawyer,” was accused of interfering in a criminal investigation of two incidents in July 4, 2005. They involved the shooting of local rapper Bruce “Beelow” Moore and an attack on two other men, Timothy Carter and Demond Eames.

“I trust the process,” John, 42, said outside Erwin’s courtroom after the judge granted a defense motion to quash the indictment. “It’s been painful, but I want the public to trust the process.”

“It’s been a long time coming, but justice has been served,” Valteau added.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said later that his office will not appeal the judge’s ruling.

“I think that the judge’s decision is correct and I respect his decision. At this point, I do not intend to seek review,” Moore said.

John was accused of plotting to have attempted murder charges dropped against Trill Entertainment managers Melvin Vernell Jr. and Marcus Roach. Trill is a Baton Rouge rap music label.

Bruce Moore was shot in front of Shop Smart Music and Fashion, a store he owned on North Sherwood Forest Drive. He survived the shooting. Eames also was outside the store at the time. Carter claimed he was attacked outside a Piggly Wiggly store on Choctaw Drive shortly before the incident at Shop Smart.

Prosecutors charged Vernell and Roach in September 2005 with attempted second-degree murder, armed robbery and illegal use of weapons. Carter and Bruce Moore then filed lawsuits in October and November 2005, respectively. Prosecutors dismissed the criminal charges against Vernell and Roach in September 2006 at the request of Bruce Moore, Carter and Eames.

John contends he negotiated a settlement with Trill — on behalf of Bruce Moore, Carter and Eames — in February 2006 in a civil suit stemming from the July 2005 incidents. John has maintained that Trill agreed to pay “certain sums of money” to the three men as part of the settlement.

John and Valteau reiterated Wednesday that John’s actions were “legal negotiations.”

“If they (prosecutors) had won this case, every lawyer in this town would have been looking behind their backs,” Valteau said.

Prosecutors filed new charges against Vernell and Roach in May 2009.

Vernell and Roach, formerly of Baton Rouge and Prairieville, respectively, each pleaded guilty in 2011 to aggravated battery of Moore. Vernell also pleaded guilty to simple battery of Eames outside the store, and Roach pleaded guilty to simple battery of Carter.

Erwin sentenced them to credit for time served on the aggravated battery charge. He gave each man suspended six-month prison terms on the simple battery charges and put them on probation for two years. Both men now live in Atlanta.