Confessed murderer Joey Jake Moses told a jury Wednesday that he vomited immediately after firing the first few bullets that took the life of Gary Flett Jr. in a 2006 home invasion on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
Moses, 24, agreed to testify as a prosecution witness against his friend, Norman “Griz” Ford Jr., who is on trial in U.S. District Court in Spokane on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
In exchange for his testimony for the prosecution, Moses expects the U.S. attorney’s office to file a motion for “substantial assistance,” meaning he will likely face a term of 18 to 25 years in prison instead of spending the rest of his life behind bars. He will be sentenced after Ford’s trial ends.
Moses was brought to court Wednesday under guard by federal marshals. He exchanged brief glances with the 30-year-old defendant sitting across the near-capacity courtroom.
The two men hadn’t seen each other since the early morning hours of June 1, 2006. After killing Flett, they threw two ammunition clips over a hillside in northwest Spokane and went their separate ways.
Arrested five days after the murder, upon his return from California, Moses testified he didn’t immediately disclose to FBI agents that Ford also fired a 9mm semiautomatic at Flett inside his home. Moses made that disclosure six months later as his attorney developed a plea bargain.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Kimball asked Moses why he waited so long before telling investigators about Ford’s role.
“I didn’t want to snitch or anything,” Moses said.
The killing occurred, he earlier testified, after a night of drinking that started at a boxing match at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, followed by a stop at a Spokane bar. He, Ford and three other men drove back to the reservation together after a stop at a convenience store where Moses stole a case of beer, he testified.
At his home on the reservation, he retrieved the handgun from under his bed and joined Ford to go confront Flett, the witness said.
Moses testified he had been bullied for months by Flett, who routinely threw beer bottles at his house, smashing windows. At one point, Flett and his friends came to Moses’ home and walked out with a television with Moses watching helplessly, the witness said.
On the night of the incident, there wasn’t a specific discussion about killing Flett – just hand gestures depicting a gun, Moses testified.
Moses said he got the handgun a few weeks earlier from Ford in exchange for $200 worth of crack cocaine.
As he and Ford traveled in Moses’ pickup to Flett’s home, “I kept thinking, ‘I hope he’s not here,’ ” Moses testified. Moses said he took the gun along, fearing Flett may have friends in the home.
“I thought he was going to beat up Gary,” Moses said of Ford, who was driving the truck. Moses said he had told Ford that “Gary is sleeping with your old lady,” angering Ford.
At Flett’s home, Moses said, Ford kicked in the door.
“I walked up the stairs, and I went in,” Moses told the jury. “I shot three or four times. I shot him once, I know that.”
Almost immediately, he recalled asking himself, “What am I doing? This ain’t right,” Moses testified.
“I started dry-heaving,” the witness said. “I gave ‘Griz’ the gun. I told him, ‘Here, take this. I might shoot myself or something.’”
Ford took the gun and fired another shot at Flett, Moses said, while he began vomiting and ran outside, falling on the entrance walkway.
“Then it really got to me,” he said. “I started puking in the grass.” At the same time, Moses said, he heard six or seven shots fired inside the house.
In seconds, Ford ran out and scooped him off the ground. “I thought he might come shoot me next,” Moses testified.
The pair, both still under the influence of liquor, drove from the reservation to northwest Spokane where they threw two 9mm ammunition magazines over a hillside. Downtown, Moses encountered two Spokane Police officers, who had no idea about his role in the murder and let him go after a pat-down.
He caught a Greyhound for Los Angeles and returned five days later at the urging of his family.
After Ford called a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent the next day, implicating Moses in the murder, the ammo clips were recovered from the hillside on Northwest Boulevard, but not the handgun. Moses testified Ford took it, saying he was going to have it crushed. It wasn’t recovered.
Early in cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Vovos started to raise questions about Moses’ ability to recall details, including important specifics of his written plea to first-degree murder last May. The witness testified he couldn’t remember if he had pleaded guilty to second- or first-degree murder.
Vovos asked Moses if he recently had read the plea agreement or recalled what he told the judge in May 2007 when he entered his guilty plea and answered questions under oath.
“A little bit,” Moses said repeatedly to that series of questions.