Authorities investigating Tupac murder suspect's jailhouse calls: Officials

BySasha Pezenik and Josh Margolin ABCNews logo
Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Authorities investigating Tupac murder suspect's jailhouse calls
Word of the investigation into what Duane "Keffe D" Davis meant in those conversations comes on the heels of a Las Vegas judge deciding to set his bail at $750,000 - a sum far above what his lawyers had asked for in advocating for his release to house arrest, pending trial.

Authorities are investigating jailhouse phone calls from the man charged with orchestrating the killing of rapper Tupac Shakur, after hearing remarks they say indicate he might have been conspiring to harm witnesses cooperating with the prosecution, law enforcement officials tell ABC News.

Word of the investigation into what Duane "Keffe D" Davis meant in those conversations comes on the heels of a Las Vegas judge deciding to set his bail at $750,000 - a sum far above what his lawyers had asked for in advocating for his release to house arrest, pending trial.

In opposing their request for bail the Clark County District Attorney's Office, leading the case against Davis, said he poses "credible threats to witnesses" and a "danger to the community."

Davis, through his lawyers, denies the allegations.

Matt Murphy, a former prosecutor in Orange County, California, and an ABC News legal contributor said, "We have potential threats of harm, which will and should be investigated. ... Right now that's ambiguous. However, of course, the police are going to investigate that, as they should."

Prosecutors have focused on some of Davis' calls while in custody, which they allege centered on witnesses in the murder case -- and, they say, so has his "ire."

A bail hearing was postponed Tuesday in Las Vegas for a former Los Angeles-area gang leader charged with orchestrating the killing of hip-hop music legend Tupac Shakur.

Citing an October conversation between Davis and his son, they alleged the pair discussed an "authorization to kill" which made authorities so concerned for the safety of one of their witnesses that they decided to relocate him.

"I got something to tell you about some s--- that's going on," prosecutors quoted Davis' son telling his father on the call, according to court documents.

"What?" Davis asked. His son replied, "Around the city, they talking about it's a green light on our side," according to the prosecution's court filing.

"In [Davis'] world, a 'green light' is an authorization to kill. This caused enough concern that the Federal Government stepped in and provided resources to at least [one witness] so he could change his residence," prosecutors said.

"If you're a cop and you hear this, you're compelled to act and go tell the prosecutor, who's going to interpret it, look at it, and bring it forward to a judge," said Robert Boyce, an ABC News contributor and retired chief of detectives in the New York Police Department. "You've got to run with this and see what you find out."

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson declined to comment on the investigation into alleged threats made on Davis' jail calls.

Las Vegas Sheriff Kevin McMahill told ABC News that he is "aware of those allegations, but I'm not going to speak about that."

Shakur was killed in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting on Sept. 7, 1996 -- a crime that had become one of the most infamous unsolved murders in modern American history.

Davis' own words have been crucial in the case against him. In his memoir and in interviews over the years, Davis has admitted to playing a key part in Tupac's killing. His defense team says prosecutors have relied on testimony from witnesses "with questionable credibility" and excerpts from Davis' book, which they say could have been penned by his co-author. Interviews Davis himself gave detailing his role in the shooting were "never verified" for their "truthfulness," his lawyers said, adding that Davis' media admissions were "done for entertainment purposes" and for financial gain.

Prosecutors allege that the suspect was a feared gang member back in the 1990s and was the "shot caller" on the night when Shakur was gunned down while in the passenger seat of a stopped car by the Vegas Strip. According to prosecutors, Davis is now willing to play "shot caller" once again as he stands charged in connection with Tupac's murder, and so he should remain locked up.

Davis' lawyers, who had asked that their client be allowed to await trial while on house arrest -- or that bail not exceed $100,00 -- claim their client is not a threat to the community, nor a flight risk.

Prosecutors misconstrued what was said on those calls, Davis' lawyers said -- that Davis was never planning to put a hit out on those cooperating in the case against him - rather, he was concerned there was word on the street that his own family was in danger.

Davis "never threatened anyone during the phone calls," his lawyers said in a filing ahead of Tuesday's bail hearing - adding that prosecutors' interpretation of the use of 'green light' is "flat-out wrong," and is an "inflammatory term that will lead people to draw unsupported inferences of wrongdoing."

In setting Davis' high bail, Judge Carli Kierny noted although no "explicit" threat was made on the jail calls, "they do cause the court concern."

"When we talk about the nature and the seriousness of danger to any victims or other people in this case, as the state has indicated, this could be very high," Judge Carli Kierny said. "I don't believe that the FBI is stepping in and providing coverage or assistance for people in situations where they don't think it's a credible threat."

No plans to harm witnesses in Davis' case, whether blatant or implied, have been confirmed.

Video shows the moment Las Vegas police arrested Duane "Keefe D" Davis, the self-described gangster arrested in the shooting death of rapper Tupac Shakur.

Pending posting bail, he remains in the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, where he's been held since his arrest on Sept. 29, 2023. His trial date is set for June 3. He has pleaded not guilty.

In a statement to ABC News, Davis' lawyer held firm to their explanation of Davis' communications.

"Our interpretation of the calls is obviously different than the state's interpretation," Charles Cano, chief deputy special public defender for Clark County told ABC News. "Our interpretation is that the 'green light' comments were a threat against our client, or his family."