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Trial consolidated for 6 in beating, confinement case

Kulon Lewis Jr.,
Charles Louis Phillips Jr.
Andrew Gibson
Ervin Herman
Justin Dawson
Curtis Williams

FORT WAYNE -- Together, they're accused of orchestrating the attack.

Several chased after the man, punching and kicking him; another stood as a lookout, restraining witnesses.

Together, they're accused of holding the same man hostage for more than three hours.

Together, they're accused of dishing out a beating that included pistol-whipping the man in the face.

Now, they'll stand trial together.

An Allen Superior Court judge today consolidated the trials of six men charged in a November battery which left a man unconscious.

It was a rare move for Allen County prosecutors to ask to try so many defendants in one trial, but Judge Fran Gull granted their request despite objections from two of the six defendants' attorneys.

Those accused in the beating are: Kulon Lewis Jr., 20; Andrew M. Gibson, 18; Justin Dawson, 18; Curtis Williams, 20; Ervin Herman, 19; and Charles Louis Phillips Jr., 18.

All six have been charged with felony criminal confinement and battery.

Jury selection for their trial is scheduled for Aug. 8 with the trial beginning Aug. 11.

According to court documents and police records, the six men went to the 400 block of Pinegrove Lane at about 4:15 p.m. on Nov. 8 to confront James "JJ" Oldham Jr.

Four of the six gave chase to Oldham and began punching and kicking him, while another of the group held back witnesses who tried to intervene.

The group then forced Oldham into the back seat of a car and drove off, according to court documents.

Later, Oldham told police he was held at a location for about three hours and beaten by all six defendants.

They pistol-whipped him when he refused to tell them where his money was, Oldham said in court documents.

Eventually, he was taken to Kettler Park near Buell Drive and Paulding Road, where he was picked up by his father.

Prosecutors asked for the consolidation because each of the men is charged as part of a common scheme or plan.

In their motion to consolidate the trials, prosecutors noted that they do not plan to use some statements made by the men to law enforcement as evidence.

That sat fine with some of the defense attorneys involved, who congregated with their clients along with prosecutors in what quickly became a crowded courtroom today.

Still, some of the defense lawyers asked for a little leeway to present their arguments during trial.

"Each of us may have a different defense," said defense attorney Michelle Kraus during the hearing. "We might decide our strategy is the same, but we're too new into the investigation."

The attorney for Kulon Lewis was one of two who offered up an objection to the consolidation, hinting that part of his defense will be that Lewis was misidentified on video that captured some of the attack.

While the word "gang" was not uttered during today's hearing or written in any motion, at least two of those involved in the attack do have ties – in some way – to gangs.

Lewis' now deceased father was a noted gang leader in the city and was gunned down during a cookout back in 2004.

Kulon Lewis Jr. himself had been implicated in a shooting outside a downtown nightclub last year that left two people injured from bullet shrapnel.

He was preliminarily charged with criminal recklessness and carrying a handgun without a license.

No formal charges were ever filed.

Charles Phillips was accused of being involved in a shootout at Lafayette Street and East Tillman Road earlier this month that left him and four others injured from gunfire.

In the days after the shootout – in which nobody died – police said each man involved was a confirmed gang member.