Simpson pleads guilty to murder: 'Cutthroat' to testify against co-defendants

Simpson pleads guilty to murder: 'Cutthroat' to testify against co-defendants

January 23rd, 2013 by Todd South in Local Regional News

John Thomas Simpson

Harold Francis Butler

Unjolee Tremone Moore

Steven James Ballou

Instead of life in prison John "Cutthroat" Simpson now faces 15 to 25 years on murder charges. All he has to do is testify against his co-defendants.

Simpson, 32, took a plea deal Tuesday and avoided both a trial and the possible life sentence for a 2010 home invasion shooting death.

Prosecutors allowed him to plead to second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in exchange for his promise to testify against three co-defendants in their upcoming trials.

Simpson was scheduled to go to trial next week. His sentencing date has not been scheduled, pending his cooperation in the remaining cases.

The first trial, for Harold Francis Butler III, is scheduled for April 30 before Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.

Simpson fired his attorney in October and called Chattanooga Gang Task Force Coordinator Boyd Patterson to testify in November.

He had Patterson verify that Simpson had called him and warned him about threats to Patterson's life.

Patterson said he'd spoken with Simpson and been warned but didn't have any evidence to support the alleged death threats.

Jay Perry, who represents Butler, said at the time of the Patterson hearing, Simpson repeatedly had offered untrue information in the case. Calling Patterson with the claim of death threats was likely an attempt to gain favor with the court, Perry said.

"I think that wasn't going to help him," Perry said at the time.

Simpson; Butler, 32; Unjolee Tremone Moore, 26; and Steven James Ballou, 33, were arrested and charged with murder in the June 29, 2010, shooting death of 46-year-old Bernard Hughes and wounding of Timothy Westfield.

Prosecutors allege Simpson, Butler and Ballou rushed into Hughes' 4417 Oakwood Drive home that night and shot him. They said Moore drove the getaway car.

Attorneys for all four men sought to have the case dismissed early in 2012 when they found evidence missing from the case -- a cellphone requested not to be collected by Chattanooga police Lt. Edwin McPherson.

McPherson was disciplined for lying because he told Internal Affairs investigators he didn't remember telling fellow officers not to confiscate the phone.

But a police chief panel overturned the disciplinary action, saying there wasn't enough evidence to show McPherson lied.