In June 2010, Vincent Cort drove his orange Oldsmobile Delta 88 into the parking lot of a Milwaukee liquor store. He went in, and came back out a few minutes later with a bottle and returned to his car. A man in a hoodie approached his car window, and pointed a gun at him, yelling "give it up". When Cort did not immediately comply, the guy fired at least one shot, hitting Cort. He managed to drive away from the parking lot, and was eventually transported to a hospital and died.
Despite video surveillance footage of the parking lot, the Milwaukee police were unable to solve this crime.
In February 2012, a man named Paris Saffold was arrested in connection with a drug investigation, unrelated to the Cort homicide case. He was taken to jail, having been in possession of cocaine. In an obvious effort to extricate himself from his legal trouble, Saffold told police that he had been an eyewitness to the "planning of the robbery" which resulted in the death of Cort. Saffold told a story claiming to have resided at an apartment complex across the street from the liquor store where Cort was shot. He claimed that he had seen and heard George Taylor, Laquan Riley and Steven Hopgood, plan to rob Cort, with Riley being the shooter, with a gun provided by Hopgood.
Taylor, Riley and Hopgood were subsequently arrested and taken to trial, in December 2012.
Taylor, Riley and Hopgood were all tried together. The State relied almost exclusively upon the testimony of Saffold, with no other evidence implicating Taylor, Riley and Hopgood in this case.
The Prosecutor presented a bullet into evidence, claiming that it had been found in the vehicle and was the one that had killed Cort. The problem is that, despite this claim by the Prosecutor to the jury, the report of the well-respected forensic ballistic expert Greg Martin establishes that the bullet could not possibly have been the one that killed Cort. Moreover, despite the fact that the Prosecutor told the jury that there was a 'red substance" found on the bullet, insinuating that it was blood, DNA test results prove there was no blood found on the bullet. Most interesting, however, is the Police Report from the original Police Officers, who conducted the initial vehicle search, that establish no bullet was found in the vehicle. This proves that the bullet used by the Prosecutor at Trial was planted, and was not the one that killed Cort, yet the Prosecutor presented the false evidence anyway. The Prosecutor told the jury that there were no other suspects, besides the three men on Trial, and following a series of improper comments during the Trial, and closing arguments by the Prosecutor, the jury convicted them.
George Taylor was sentenced to 17 years in and 7 out for felony murder.
Write directly to George Taylor:
George Taylor #571695
Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
P O Box 189
Phoenix, MARYLAND 21131
U S A
Following the convictions, Hopgood discovered a series of Police Reports which established that the Prosecutor lied to the Court about there being no other suspects. The Reports listed the people named therein by initials, and consisted of:
1. Eric Cooper who reported to the Police that Raymond Scott had told him, that he followed around a white male in an orange Olds Delta 88, because a friend of his sister told him the guy carried a lot of money around, and that he had shot him when he tried to drive away.
2. Kenyatta Watson reported to the Police that Verdale Armstrong told him that he had "killed a white dude for not giving up his orange car". Armstrong told Watson that a person named Tawanna had set up the idea for the robbery. It was also discovered that Tawanna turned out to be Tawanna Watkins who was a former girlfriend of Cort, and who was the beneficiary of Cort's life insurance policy. She received $86,000 in insurance money after he was killed, despite having broken up with Cort.
3. "Brushae Brown" reported that "Anthony Anderson" bragged about killing white boy Vinnie".
These Reports establish that the Police and Prosecutor had information that there were other suspects, with a far greater likelihood of having committed the crime than Taylor, Riley and Hopgood. Yet the Prosecutor lied to the jury about it.
Additional withheld Police Reports establish that there were two additional eyewitnesses, Andre Jones and Cynthia Smith who saw the shooting, and did not identify Riley as the shooter, contrary to Saffold's story.
Notably, at trial, when one of the video surveillance footage scenes was shown, it established that the shooter was wearing a hoodie, which conflicted with Saffold's testimony, and left him stuttering about how Riley got the hoodie, when his initial story did not have Riley wearing a hoodie.
Saffold's story also had Taylor driving Riley away from the scene in a white BMW. The problem is that Kelli Walton, who the Defense Counsel did not call as a witness, established that she had possession of the white BMW all day, from 10am to 10.30pm, as she frequently switched cars with Taylor. This fact undermined Saffold's story because, although he knew that Taylor had a white BMW, he could incorporate into his story, he did not know that Taylor could prove he did not have it on the day of the shooting. Taylor was later granted an Evidentiary Hearing on this issue, and that litigation remains pending.
Saffold's story also claimed that he was together with Taylor, Riley and Hopgood the entire time, until Cort actually entered the liquor store. The problem with this part of his story is that Latoria Dodson, whose testimony was presented at trial stated that she saw the guy in the hoodie walk over to the liquor store minutes before Cort exited the store, 10 or 15 minutes before she heard the shot fired.
A second video which was not shown at trial also shows Taylor in the parking lot of the liquor store well before the shooting. He was wearing clothes completely different from the shooter, establishing that he was not the shooter, but which also completely disproves Saffold's story that Saffold was together with all three men until after Cort was in the store.
In addition to all of the withheld information that demonstrates that Saffold's story is simply not possibly true, it was disclosed at trial that he stood not only to gain having the cocaine arrest disappear, but also he stood to gain ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in reward money for his testimony against Taylor, Riley and Hopgood. What was not disclosed, was the fact that Saffold not only refused to testify unless he was given the ten thousand dollars, but also that he had been given some of the money in advance, to pay rent and deposit on an apartment. Despite strict rules mandating that this be revealed to the Court and jury, the Prosecutor withheld this fact.
A chain of emails between attorney Mark Williams and various investigators, to which the prosecutors were copied in, confirms the post-trial discovery of this fact. What is really eye-opening and disturbing is that, in connection with the discovery of the funds, it was also discovered that Lead Detective, Rudolfo Gomez had actually extorted a portion of the reward money from Saffold. Gomez was later caught falsifying information on a warrant application, in an unrelated case and prosecuted for his crime. However, Gomez's sinister involvement in this case went further.
Steven Hopgood resided with the mother of his children at the time of the crime. Inexplicably, Defense Counsel refused to call her as a witness, to testify to Hopgood’s alibi, which she has provided in a report to the lawyers' investigators, proving that Hopgood did not go out that day, but was inside with her the entire day, and moreover that he did not have any firearms, thereby disproving Saffold's claim that Hopgood had given Riley the gun.
The mother of Hopgood’s children provided additional information, regarding disgraced Detective Rudolfo Gomez. She advised the investigator that, one night after her name appeared on the witness list for Hopgood, Gomez came to her home late at night, after she was in bed, tried to force his way into her home, and threatened her, stating "I'll be back to pick up your dead body, and you better not go to court on the 17th". He also threatened to take her to jail.
Laquan Riley spent June 12, 2010 hosting a barbeque at his home to celebrate a relative’s birthday. This provided the opportunity for family and friends to meet his new born daughter, who was born two weeks previously. Despite Riley's defense counsel never investigating this fact to present it at trial, it is confirmed by not only Riley's family members, but also Marlandez McDaniel.
George Taylor was out riding with Marlandez McDaniel in the gold Chrysler that belonged to Taylor's cousin, and which whom he had traded the white BMW for the day (which he frequently did). McDaniel and Taylor stopped by Riley's home during his barbecue, some time after 7pm. At approximately 10pm – 10.30pm Taylor left to exchange the car with his cousin. At approximately 11.30pm, they were stopped for a traffic stop.
McDaniel executed a sworn Affidavit confirming these facts, and a police report confirming the traffic stop was also obtained. In addition, a sworn Affidavit by Taylor's cousin, Kelli Walton, further confirms this. This confirms that Taylor could not have been involved in the Cort homicide either, as he was with McDaniel at the time of the crime. Despite having explained all of this to his lawyers, and despite the lawyers including McDaniel on their witness list in discovery, they inexplicably never called him to testify. His testimony would not only have established Taylor's whereabouts at the time of the crime (as well as confirming Riley's), but also established that Taylor was not driving the white BMW that day, further proving that Saffold's testimony was false.
Another important fact that was never addressed at Trial, due to counsel's refusal to investigate it, is the fact that three years before the Cort homicide, Saffold had beaten up a close female friend of Riley's. Riley intervened and encouraged her to press charges. This started bad blood between Riley and Saffold, as Saffold believed that Riley could have stopped her from doing so. Notably, on two prior occasions, Saffold was involved in false charges against Riley for robbery. In both occasions, Riley was charged, based upon complaints from Saffold's family members, but the charges were dismissed.
None of this information was presented at Trial, due to counsel's failure to defend the case.
On the day of the crime, Edward Allen Sr was interviewed by the police. It was not until 2018 that Edward Allen Jr came forward and confirmed at the time of the Cort homicide, he lived next to the parking lot of the liquor store. He knew Vincent Cort, who was like a mentor and a friend to him. He had sometimes purchased marijuana at a local park two blocks away, from Saffold, whose nickname in the neighborhood was "P". Allen further states that, on June 12, 2010, while hanging out on his front porch, he saw Cort pull into the parking lot of the liquor store, in his "orange car with big rims", and go into the liquor store. He came back out and got into his car. Allen then saw a man wearing a hoodie who he recognized to be "P" walk up to Cort's car window with a gun in his hand, stick his hand through the car window. Allen heard a "bang".
This information was confirmed by Private Investigator Cynthia Papka, who not only interviewed Allen, but also independently confirmed that the location provided does, in fact, provide the view necessary to see what he saw.
None of this evidence was presented at Trial. None of it was known to Hopgood, Riley or Taylor at the time. It has only come to light due to Allen realizing that the wrong men were convicted for the crime and coming forward of his own accord.
After reviewing all of the court proceedings, the withheld police reports, the statement of the mother of Stephen Hopgood’s children, the statement of Marlandez McDaniel, the police report on the traffic stop, the statement of Kelli Walton, the police reports relating to Saffold's prior false allegations against Riley, the misconduct and lies of the prosecutor, the misconduct of the lead investigator, Rudolfo Gomez, and the inconsistencies of Saffold's story, it is indisputable that Steven Hopgood, Laquan Riley and George Taylor are all completely innocent of any involvement in the death of Vincent Cort.