February 15, 2008

Murder Charges Dismissed After Fearful Witnesses Back Out

By Todd Cooper, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Feb. 15--Two witnesses had battled their fears in agreeing to testify against a gang member accused of gunning down Kenny Miller outside a north Omaha convenience store in November 2006.

Their resolve apparently didn't last.

After the two men backed out, prosecutors dismissed first-degree murder charges Thursday against Jimmy Levering, 18, in connection with the 24-year-old Miller's death.

Deputy Douglas County Attorney Kim Pankonin said both witnesses feared retaliation and had wavered in their willingness to testify.

"It's frustrating," Pankonin said. "Everyone says something needs to be done about all of these shootings. But until people are willing to come forward, we won't be able to get the community back."

Levering, a documented gang member who was 17 at the time, denied involvement in the shooting at 24th Street and Redick Avenue.

One of the witnesses, who had testified at previous hearings, moved to Washington, D.C. He was visibly afraid when he testified then that he recognized the shooter as Levering.

The other witness came forward recently, Pankonin said.

He was supposed to show up for a hearing earlier this week but didn't. He was expected to testify that Levering had shot at him three times in the past, an accusation Levering denies.

Prosecutors also are expected to dismiss accessory charges against Jermaine Lucas, who was accused of driving Levering from the scene. However, Lucas still faces a robbery charge in another case.

Pankonin said prosecutors can re-file charges against either man, if witnesses come forward.

She said Miller's mom was devastated when she called to tell her the case had been dismissed.


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