It’s a bizarre development in an already unusual case -- convicted murderer Reginald Potts delayed his sentencing hearing for more than an hour after investigators found an iPhone hidden in a pile of papers he brought into the courtroom Wednesday.
Officials questioned how Potts, who is in Cook County Sheriff’s custody, managed to get a phone into the courtroom and what content was on the phone remains a mystery. Officials said they are investigating.
Potts asked Judge Thomas Gainer to dismiss his attorneys, but changed his mind after the judge told him they were not responsible for the phone and whatever was found on the device would not be used against him at the current proceeding.
Eventually, testimony in the sentencing hearing resumed.
Potts was convicted of murder in November in the 2007 death of 28-year-old Nailah Franklin, a pharmaceutical sales representative who he briefly dated then stalked. The woman's remains were found in a wooded area behind a vacant Calumet City store owned by Potts' brother-in-law. An autopsy determined she'd been asphyxiated.
Potts' lawyers have argued there were too many unanswered questions, including where, when and how she died. They said no physical evidence tied the former real estate investor and father of three to her killing.
Prosecutors have attempted to paint the convicted murderer as a habitual con man with a propensity toward violence during his sentencing hearing this week.
On Thursday former Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Lombard recalled a conversation with one of Potts’ former girlfriends, where she claimed Potts became violent after she confronted him about renting a car in her name.
“He became enraged,” Lombard said. “He threw her on the bed and choked her out.”
Lombard's testimony is consistent with others who say Potts would often become violent when he was angry, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors hope Judge Gainer will levy the heaviest possible sentence against the 38-year old, but Potts’ father took the stand Thursday to ask for a shorter sentence.
Potts sat with his head down as his father testified, the first time he has shown emotion during the hearing.
"He thinks about his [children] all the time," Reginald Potts Sr. said. "That's all he can talk about."
Potts is facing natural life in prison. A decision is expected sometime next week.