In a murder case out of suburban Detroit, Michigan hampered by conflicts of interests and a deluge of delays, the name you hear least and who the government has no direct evidence connecting him in any way to the crime, may be the person driving the whole prosecution. According to sources, law enforcement in Motown was eager to bust one-time convicted drug dealer George (G.G.) Rider at any cost, fueled by frustration over an inability to make past cases stick, and that played the biggest role in Rider being charged in the January 2017 slaying of Juli Johnson outside her boyfriend’s house in Warren, Michigan.
The 60-year old Rider, a female acquaintance named Marcie Griffin and the alleged shooter Eric Gibson, are supposed to finally have their case heard by a jury next month in Macomb County Circuit Court. The May 14 start date follows a whopping total of four postponements, one tied to the removal of the original sitting judge. The trial had gotten underway back in March, with a jury even impaneled, but was quickly adjourned and the jury dismissed prior to opening arguments due to Griffin’s attorney, Todd Flood, requesting a continuance to deal with a personal family emergency.
Rider was convicted in a narcotics trafficking case in the 1990s and did a federal prison stint. After his release and a brief return behind bars for a parole violation, Rider reinvented himself as a legitimate businessman and built a formidable real estate investment portfolio. He purchased the historic Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Detroit and eventually sold it for a seven-figure profit.
Johnson, 34, was shot to death on the morning of January 13, 2017. At the time, she was in a romantic relationship with Griffin’s former boyfriend and father to her children, Jimmy Lattner, a convicted felon who sources say is a drug dealer and has enemies in the dope game. Johnson was killed in front of Lattner’s residence walking to her car.
Prosecutors claim Griffin was unhappy with the way Johnson was treating her two kids. An IPhone video shot inside a car wash Lattner owns shows a heated argument between him and Griffin that appears to be about Johnson. Gibson’s DNA was found on the murder weapon, ditched near the crime scene.
The only evidence prosecutors have against Rider is the fact that “pings” from his cell phone can be placed in the vicinity of Gibson’s cell phone on the day Johnson was murdered and text message exchanges with Griffin where Griffin expresses anger towards Lattner.
In other words, the case against him is paper thin. Media accounts of the case barely reference his presence in the chain of events.
Rider’s cell phone and two others were seized in a controversial stop-and-search of his Ford Explorer SUV in Roseville, Michigan on February 4, 2017. He was arrested and charged with Johnson’s murder three weeks later in state court and has been being held without bail ever since.
Judge Jennifer Faunce was ordered to recuse herself from the case last October because of a conflict of interest – her sister, District Court Judge Suzanne Faunce, had signed the search warrant for Rider’s vehicle. Judge Joseph Toia took over the case in late 2018.
Per sources, federal prosecutors and FBI agents have exerted influence in the case from early on and pushed for the Macomb County District Attorney’s Office to indict Rider despite the lack of any links to the actual crime itself. The feds have relentlessly pursued Rider for years in a number of investigations that never materialized into indictments and, according to sources, the fact that all they have to show for that work is a single drug conviction from 1993 combined with fact that Rider successfully transitioned into the white-collar business world is embarrassing to investigators — his 1.3 million dollar sale of the Fine Arts Theatre in the months before his arrest especially drawing their ire sources say. One source says they saw his friendship with Griffin, 48, (and who they could connect to Johnson via Lattner) as a leverage-point and desperately wanted to jam him anyway they could, even if it was with a trumped up case.
Lattner is under federal indictment right now on weapons charges. He has made it known he will assert his Fifth Amendment privileges if called to testify at the trial as he did in a 2017 preliminary hearing when he was jailed for contempt of court. Macomb County police seized more than a half-billion bucks in cash from Lattner in a search of his home related to Johnson’s homicide.
The Voice of Detroit news website and its crack reporter Ricardo Ferrell have covered the Feds quest to take Rider down by any means necessary for the last 18 months, breaking the story wide open. Local urban legend considers Rider’s former Fine Arts Theatre building haunted as a result of a string of suspicious deaths that have occurred on its premises through the years.