East Chicago councilman tried to buy cocaine in 2006, man testifies
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ email@example.com January 22, 2014 10:21PM
Robert Battle, now a member of the East Chicago Common Council, tried to buy cocaine in 2006, according to an admitted drug dealer who testified Wednesday in federal court. | Provided
Updated: February 24, 2014 1:25PM
The federal trial of an East Chicago man accused of murder and racketeering took a twist Wednesday afternoon when a witness testified that he arranged a cocaine purchase by a man who now serves on the East Chicago Common Council.
Robert Battle, who has since been elected to represent the council’s 3rd District, wanted to buy 3 kilograms of cocaine in 2006, according to testimony by Eddie Torres Jr.
Torres, who has pleaded guilty in the Imperial Gangsters case to racketeering and drug trafficking charges, said Richard Reyes, the sole man in the case standing trial now at U.S. District Court in Hammond, was friends with Battle and sent him to Torres for drugs.
Torres told the jury that he couldn’t get the drug himself, so he arranged for Battle to buy the drugs from people he knew in Chicago.
When Battle arrived with $72,000, however, the dealers robbed him at gunpoint, Torres testified.
Battle could not be reached for comment. Torres’ testimony came under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick, who confirmed for the jury that Battle is now an East Chicago councilman.
Torres said that after Battle was robbed, Reyes approached him, thinking Torres was a part of the robbery, and demanded $20,000 for himself.
Lake County court records show Battle was arrested twice, once in 2000 and once in 2009, on marijuana posession charges. Both charges were dismissed after he went through a diversion program.
Torres also testified about his knowledge of two drug houses that Reyes, 40, robbed in 2002 and 2003. Torres said Reyes gave him a pound of marijuana from the second house, which was in Chicago and belonged to what Torres called the Mexican mafia.
Earlier in the day, Armando Ortega testified about the day Rene Alonzo, who Reyes is accused of killing, died. Ortega said he had been at a Mexican festival earlier that day — Sept. 16, 2007 — when someone who had been hanging with a group of rival Latin Kings members tried to hit him.
Later that evening, Ortega said, Reyes and another man picked him up in his maroon van, and they drove by the bar where they believed the man who hit Ortega was.
He told the jury he just thought they were going to beat the man up.
“I thought it was going to be another fist fight,” he said, adding that he had rolled his sleeves up.
At one point, Ortega said he handed his gun to Reyes but not with the intent for Reyes to shoot anyone and that he was actually reaching for his door handle to get out as they pulled up to the rival gang members. However, Ortega said he saw one of the men on the street show a Latin Kings sign, at which point someone in the van made a derisive comment about the sign. Gunshots went off after that, Ortega said.
“(Reyes) fired about five or six times and then just hit the gas,” Ortega testified.
Ortega did admit that he avoided talking to police after the shooting but said that was because his attorney advised him to. He added he agreed to testify only after federal officials agreed to let him out on bond for a separate case and to recommend he not be sentenced to any more prison time.
The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday morning with more testimony from Torres.