While he was being secretly recorded by an undercover informant, Baron Colon confessed intimate details about the night he murdered a West Kendall art dealer, prosecutors say.
To counter the damaging evidence, his defense team brought in a unique expert voice to suggest Colon was doing nothing more than bragging — to bolster a fledgling rap career.
The witness: a Miami hip-hop artist named GhostWridah, who doesn’t know Colon but testified that falsely owning up to violence is par for the course in the rap game. Street thugs, he told jurors, aren’t always so street.
“In urban culture, street credibility is very important,” said the rapper, whose real name is Troy Jeffery. “And unfortunately, record companies sometimes give deals to people who aren’t really who they say they are... It’s a rough and edgy genre.”
The rapper’s appearance Monday was an added twist for an already unusual case — Colon was a onetime finalist on the MTV reality show From G’s to Gents, a program produced by actor Jamie Foxx that aimed to reform street thugs into gentlemen.
Prosecutors weren’t buying the defense’s story — noting that Colon confessed not to some studio executive, but to a childhood buddy with no ties to the record industry.
“This defendant is not a rap artist,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Mary Ernst told jurors Monday during closing arguments. “He is a murderer.”
Miami-Dade jurors began deliberating Monday evening. Colon, 28, faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and armed burglary.
GhostWridah, who boasts a profile page on MTV.com and more than 24,000 followers on Twitter, noted he writes many violence-laden lyrics for rappers with no bodies under their belts — not so different from superstar Eminem once rapping about killing his mother.
“She’s still alive?” defense lawyer Jaime Peters asked the rapper.
“Correct,” he replied.
But to earn an acquittal, Colon will have to counter more than just the confession. He is accused of masterminding the 2006 murder of Marcelo Vera, who was shot to death inside his West Kendall home.
Vera, 44, was a Cuban exile art dealer and the son of a former high-ranking government official on the island. Vera, profiled in a 1988 front-page Herald article, served in Angola's civil war for the Cuban Army and split with the government after protesting executions there
At trial, jurors heard from an imprisoned co-defendant, Stefany Concepcion, who had worked for Vera and said Colon planned the robbery of cash from the man’s home.
Concepcion went to Vera’s house just past 11:30 p.m. and he invited her inside. Outside, Colon and two other men known as “Dread” and “Big Killa” waited.
From the bathroom, she used Colon’s cellphone to call one of the cohorts to let him know the time was right for the robbery, Ernst said. Locked in the bathroom, Concepcion heard the men storm the home.
Concepcion ultimately ran outside, but the men drove off, leaving her standing in the front yard as police officers rushed to the scene. Police officers found her with Colon’s cellphone, which he had let her borrow to help facilitate the crime, prosecutors say.
She ultimately pleaded guilty, accepted 15 years in prison and agreed to testify against Colon. The other key witness was Jerry Rios, the childhood friend who agreed to wear a wire in order to record Colon’s recounting details of the murder.
Colon was not arrested until 2011.