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Co-defendants, others testify in ‘Cash Feenz’ trial

By Staff | May 7, 2009

The state rested its double murder case against Roderick Washington after only one day of testimony from co-defendants and witnesses who said they saw and heard the horrific beating, torture and killings of Alexis and Jeffery Sosa during a 2006 birthday party.
After one day of a daunting 70-person jury selection and another day of testimony pointing to Washington as the man who held the Sosas at gunpoint while they were beat, tied, cut and tortured, Washington must now decide whether he will take the stand in his own defense, said defense lawyer Paul Sullivan.
If Washington testifies, he will be the defense’s only witness.
The state said it may have a rebuttal witness depending on Washington’s decision.
Among those who testified to what they witnessed were two of Washington’s co-defendants, who had accepted plea deals with the state. Those witnesses were Alexis Fernandez and Michael Balint.
Both Balint and Fernandez pegged Washington as holding a rifle, and at one point a handgun, to the Sosas and telling them not to move while they were tied up by Balint.
Balint testified that he hogtied the Sosas in the kitchen of Kemar Johnston’s duplex at Johnston’s threats.
“He told me worse things could happen,” he said. “I could have been down there with them.”
While some witnesses said they left the area where the Sosas were being beat up because they were uncomfortable or it was not their business, testimony revealed none of 30 to 50 people called police or challenged the onslaught of violence.
William Arciszewski, who produced the “Cash Feenz” rap group several of the defendants allegedly were a part of, told the jury that he went to the bathroom when a fight ensued between the Sosas and others at the party.
The fight reportedly began over some threatening phone messages Alexis Sosa had left to several of the party-goers.
“I don’t know what it entailed, but it fired everybody up,” Arciszewski said. “The entire atmosphere changed, you could feel it in the air. I feared everybody. They all had guns and I didn’t. They were all acting crazy. I think (Johnston) snapped.”
He recalled hearing screaming and pleading from the Sosas, and witnessing some of the torture from the living room.
Arciszewski also said Washington was holding a rifle on the Sosas and identified him in open court.
Medical Examiner Robert Pfalzgraf said autopsies of the Sosas’ bodies revealed Jeffery died of gunshots to the neck and chest, while Alexis died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest and had been shot at least four times.
Neither had carbon monoxide in their blood, he testified, so both died before a vehicle was set on fire, burning the remains of Alexis in a north Cape Coral industrial park.
Further tests revealed the Sosas had drugs in their systems, such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
Presiding Judge Thomas Reese denied a request by Sullivan for acquittal Wednesday afternoon.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations early this afternoon.