|Updated: 1/31/2012 9:14 am
||Published: 1/30/2012 5:41 pm
One of four men charged with the 2008 shooting death of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney pleaded guilty to soliciting murder.
Mohammed Aziz entered a plea on Monday. Prosecutors say he was the mastermind behind a plot to kill Sweeney because Aziz owed money to Sweeney’s fuel delivery company.
Sweeney was shot to death at his east Tulsa office in 2008. Prosecutors believe Aziz used Fred Shields and Alonzo Johnson to hire someone to kill Sweeney. Terrico Bethel is accused of killing Sweeney.
As part of a plea agreement, charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder against Aziz will be dropped once he testifies against the other three defendants in this case.
Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond says he'd been contemplating a deal with Aziz for at least two weeks.
“Most times, when you make these sorts of agreements there is new evidence coming forward that you can use against the other defendants,” Drummond told FOX23 Monday.
Originally, prosecutors planned to use the testimony of Fred Shields' brother, Allen against him, Aziz, Alonzo Johnson, and Terrico Bethel. Last year though, Allen Shields took his own life during a standoff with police.
“When Allen Shields (killed himself) and that happened, we were looking at how to best prosecute this case,” Drummond said.
Drummond says will enable jurors to hear Allen Shields pre-trial testimony backed-up by Muhammad Aziz. Still, he understands many in the community won't like this decision.
“The people who are critical, they don't have knowledge of this case.”
He says having Aziz testify against the others gives him a better shot a convictions.
“What we want to do is a hold each of these four defendants accountable with a significant amount of prison time,” Drummond said.
As for the possibility of more plea deals, nothing is certain.
“It's hard to predict what we might or might not do.”
Alonzo Johnson’s trial is scheduled to begin in two weeks. Fred Shields and Terrico Bethel are currently scheduled to go on trial this summer. The three men are each charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.