Chicago inmate accused of hiring an undercover cop to kill witnesses

Jason Smith
Justin Smith | Chicago Police

An inmate in the Cook County Jail in Chicago attempted to hire a hitman to kill three witnesses in a murder case he is currently involved in.

He made a costly mistake, however. The hitman he attempted to hire was an undercover police officer.

Justin Smith has been held at the jail since he was charged with the 2016 murder of 27-year-old Richard Porter, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Court records say that Smith pleaded not guilty when he was indicted on six counts of murder, according to court records.

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On Jan. 7, Smith, while in jail, allegedly “communicated a desire to get rid of some witnesses in his pending case,” according to Cook County prosecutors said in court Thursday. An undercover police officer then contacted Smith at the jail.

On Jan. 19, Smith told the officer he would pay $5,000 to have three witnesses tied to Porter’s murder case killed. Smith – telling the officer the witnesses “needed to disappear” – also provided their nicknames, along with information about where they lived and how to find them on Facebook.

After the officer showed Smith Facebook photos of the witnesses, the inmate said that he wanted them “disposed of,” prosecutors said. The officer told Smith that one of the witnesses might have been living with other family members.

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Smith was charged with three counts of solicitation of murder and three counts of solicitation of murder for hire.

Smith is in jail for the killing of Porter, who was found face down on a sidewalk in Nov. 2016 with a fatal gunshot wound to his head. Prosecutors said that the three witnesses were in a car with Porter when he went to Smith’s home to retrieve a cell phone he left behind during a drug deal.

When Porter approached, an armed Smith threw the phone to the ground. Porter was walking back to the car when Smith shot him in the back of the head.

Smith’s next court date is on Feb. 20.