Bond raised; grand jury to hear latest charges facing reputed gang member
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Regika Tillery, and her boyfriend Reginald Hubbard never waver in their testimony before Hamilton County General Sessions Court; that Michael Lebron Branham and another man, not yet arrested, robbed them at her South Chattanooga apartment March 10th.
"He got out of a car, put a big ol' TEC-9 to my head," says Tillery. "He was asking for money."
"I actually handed it over to him cause he had the gun to my head," testifies Hubbard. "He was like give me, or I'm going to spray you."
The couple alleges Branham packed a long-barreled TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun.
In court Thursday morning, prosecutor Lila Statom asked Tillery to demonstrate how large the weapon appeared to be.
"Judge, I would say that's a little over two feet," says Statom.
Under Tennessee law, use of a firearm bumps up the charges Branham faces to aggravated assault and aggravated robbery. Conviction of either could net him eight to twelve years in prison.
But Branham's attorney argues that Hubbard and Tillery aren't victims; rather they were trying to disguise a drug deal.
"Have you ever sold marijuana," Public Defender Alan Dunn asks Hubbard.
"No sir." answers Hubbard. "I work at Goodwill."
Hubbard maintains that Branham forced him to hand over $200, the cash from his most recent paycheck.
Since Branham's arrest, media reports have recounted his criminal history; most recently the weapons charges that sent him to federal prison. Prosecutors had connected him to a series of shootings, culminating in the death of Adrian Patton on June 13, 2006.
Tillery and Hubbard claim that Branham and his buddies began phoning them almost immediately after the alleged robbery; first, with an offer of $500 'hush money.'
"Did he make any threats in the later phone calls," asks Statom.
"He said he was gonna kill me," answers Tillery.
The exchanges changes Branham's expression from a smile to a blank stare.
It hardens when prosecutors ask for a higher bond.
"This defendant is a validated gang member of the Rollin 60's (Crips)," says Statom. "He is very violent."
"It's hearsay," answers Dunn. "That's claimed only in an affidavit."
The protests fail to fly.
"The proof in this court, is really overwhelming," says Sessions Judge Clarence Shattuck.
Shattuck finds probable cause to send the case to the grand jury, and raised Branham's bond to $150,000.
Branham will need $15,000 cash to get out of jail and back onto the streets. He left, shaking his head.
Tillery declined comment as she left court.
"I'm not scared of him," says Hubbard. "I'm just scared that he has guns all the time, is what I'm saying."