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Allegations of attempted jury tampering stall proceedings in murder trial

Cameron Kemp

Cameron Kemp

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Reco West

LAWRENCEVILLE — Authorities believe one of the defendants on trial this month for the murder of 15-year-old Nick Jackson II asked a fellow inmate’s mother to contact a juror via Facebook.

Over the weekend, Norcross Police Investigator Justin Siegel was monitoring the jailhouse phone calls of defendant Reco Dehaven West and Cameron Kemp, who is housed in the same “pod” at the jail. In three separate calls on Saturday — the day after recordings of other damning phone calls were played for the jury — West and Kemp both spoke with the latter’s mother, a Covington woman named Angella Hodges.

Hodges, who had been present for much of the already week-long trial, agreed to create a fake Facebook page and contact a young female juror whom West thought “liked him.” She admitted as much after being subpoenaed and put on the stand Monday.

“I searched to see if she even had Facebook or if that was even her right name or anything,” Hodges said Monday before Gwinnett County Judge Tom Davis stopped her, read her Miranda rights and warned that that action could represent a “substantial step” toward the commission of a crime.

At that point, Hodges said she didn’t want to answer any more questions.

Though it was determined that juror in question was not actually contacted, she was dismissed from the case Monday. The case of the second defendant, Michael Earl Davis, was severed, meaning he’ll receive his own trial at some point in the future.

All of the recorded calls were played outside of the jury’s presence Monday morning before Davis approved them as evidence to be introduced. In the first to be played, Kemp — who has been in the Gwinnett County jail since November on aggravated assault charges — outlined the scheme.

“Can you create another Facebook and just put some false information in?” Kemp asked his mother

“Like what?” Hodges asked. “What’re you talking about?”

Kemp: “Create a Facebook page.”

Hodges: “For who?”

Kemp: “Like from the library or something.”

Hodges: “When I create a Facebook page who is it supposed to be for?”

Kemp: “Whatchu mean?”

Hodges: “I mean whose name should I put on there?”

Kemp: “Any name. You can put any name on there.”

Hodges: “OK, and why am I doing that?

Kemp: “There’s a 20-year-old girl that’s on the jury.”

Hodges: “Yeah?”

Kemp: “Her and (West) be like, like silent talking to each other, like she like him or something. And we want you to create a fake page” … “and just be like, ‘Please don’t send my son to prison.’”

Hodges: “OK, alright. I’m not home right now but…”

Kemp: “We’ll get you her name tonight.”

Hodges: “Alright. OK.”

That call took place shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday. At about 9:20 a.m. the same day, Kemp had called his mother for a first time. During that call, Hodges also spoke with West, consoling him when he said his life “was over” and offering him advice for speaking to the jury prior to trial’s end.

She directly referenced the juror in question.

“Did you see the lady on the end? She’s still on your side,” Hodges said. “When you’re talking, make sure you’re giving her direct eye contact.”

At about 7 p.m. Saturday, Kemp called his mother a third time and gave her the name of the juror. Hodges took the exact spelling and said, seemingly nonchalantly, that she would message the young woman if she was on Facebook.

It was unclear Monday if Hodges or Kemp would be charged with a crime. Hodges left the courtroom, returned briefly then left again.

After the calls were played, the juror in question was put on the stand and questioned about any potential contact, which she denied. Each of the other jurors was questioned individually and each said they had not noticed any suspicious behavior.

The morning’s events heightened the emotions in an already tense courtroom. Davis, citing “hard feelings” between the family and friends of Jackson II and supporters of West, ordered sheriff’s deputies to be stationed outside the courtroom during every break.

The trial continued Monday afternoon without Davis, the second defendant who had no role in the alleged jury tampering attempts.

Neither Davis nor West are accused of firing shots during the Feb. 2, 2012, home invasion that left Jackson II dead inside his Norcross bedroom, but are accused of being part of the four-man crew that entered the house. Both are facing charges including malice murder and five counts of felony murder.

A total of seven suspects have been charged in the case. All but Davis and West have been convicted or entered guilty pleas in exchange for their testimony.

In other jailhouse telephone calls played in court Monday — these from the weeks following the crime — West admitted to multiple friends that he was at the scene of Jackson II’s murder, where authorities contend he and his co-defendants were drawn by rumors of drugs and cash stashed there by the Norcross High School freshman’s father.

In different calls, West admitted the ski mask being held by authorities belonged to him and said that co-defendants Anthony Lumpkin and Jason Dozier had purposely fired their weapons at Jackson II. West also revealed other details which, at that point, weren’t even known to investigators.

Alternately using coded and derogatory terms, West told one friend that Jackson II had come to the basement door that evening because he thought a girl was there.

“The mouse thought he seen the cheese outside,” West said.