- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The mother and cousin of a man accused by federal authorities of running a deadly drug ring have pleaded guilty in federal court to racketeering.

They were among 12 people indicted with Telly “Wild” Hankton, who is scheduled for trial June 6 on a dozen federal racketeering, drug and weapon charges. Those charges include allegations of multiple killings as part of a conspiracy that started before 1996 and was allegedly still going on when the indictment was handed up in 2014.

Hankton was convicted in state court of murder and is serving life in prison for killing Darnell Stewart. He is charged in federal court with murder in aid of racketeering in Stewart’s death and those of two other men.

Shirley Hankton, Telly Hankton’s mother, pleaded guilty Monday to racketeering. His cousin and alleged co-leader Thomas “Squirt” Hankton pleaded guilty to racketeering, drug conspiracy and assault in aid of racketeering. As part of the assault plea, he admitted trying to kill a witness to keep him from testifying against Telly Hankton in the state murder trial.

Federal prosecutors dropped numerous counts in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Also pleading guilty was Thomas Hankton’s girlfriend, Netthany Schexnayder. She admitted helping cover up a felony.

Prosecutors agreed to a 25-year sentence for Thomas Hankton, 39, and from anywhere from no prison time to nearly 5½ years for Shirley Hankton, 61. Schexnayder, 37, faces up to three years.

Judge Martin Feldman said two of the charges to which Thomas Hankton pleaded guilty carried maximum sentences of life, one of them with a mandatory minimum of 20 years, and the assault charge carried a maximum term of 20 years. Maximum total fines could be $20.5 million, with up to 18 years of supervised release.

The racketeering charge to which Shirley Hankton pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, a $250,000 and five years of supervised release.

Both Hanktons also agreed to forfeit any assets “constituting or derived from” the conspiracy.

Noting that he is not bound by the plea agreements, Feldman scheduled sentencing Oct. 12 for all three.

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