Feds take an­other crack at gang

Nine Black Guer­rilla Fam­ily mem­bers face new charges

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Fen­ton

Ayear af­ter an ef­fort to evis­cer­ate a lo­cal gang fell short in Bal­ti­more Cir­cuit Court, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties are tak­ing an­other crack at nine al­leged lead­ers of the Black Guer­rilla Fam­ily by bring­ing rack­e­teer­ing charges.

Among those charged in the new in­dict­ment, which was un­sealed Thurs­day, is Ger­ald Thomas “Geezy” John­son, 34. He­had been de­scribed by au­thor­i­ties in 2013 as the leader of a BGF cell lo­cated in the Bar­clay area, but was ac­quit­ted by a jury last fall of all charges, in­clud­ing con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der, rob­bery, drug dis­tri­bu­tion and crim­i­nal gang ac­tiv­ity.

More than a quar­ter of the 48 de­fen­dants in the ear­lier case had their charges dropped. Only a hand­ful saw more than five years in prison, though many had been charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der, which un­der a gang statute car­ries a po­ten­tial 20-year prison sen­tence.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties have now recharged nine of them, on largely the same al­le­ga­tions.

“Ef­fec­tive prose­cu­tions put the killers out of busi­ness and de­ter oth­ers from fol­low­ing in their foot­steps,” Mary­land U.S. At­tor­ney Rod Rosen­stein said in a state­ment.

The Bal­ti­more state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Both cases were in­ves­ti­gated by Bal­ti­more po­lice and the fed­eral Bu­reau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives.

Au­thor­i­ties ap­pear to be have con­tin­ued to keep close tabs on John­son. Af­ter his re­lease, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors say, he recorded a rap video un­der the name Gzy Tha Prince in which he mim­icked the fir­ing of a gun and called out two BGF mem­bers who had tes­ti­fied against him.

“You know what you did,” he says into the cam­era. “N— — on the stand. N— — crazy.”

John­son has been in fed­eral cus­tody since July af­ter be­ing pulled over when an in­for­mant said he was driv­ing around with a firearm, po­lice said. Of­fi­cers found no gun, but said they found residue amounts of drugs in­side bag­gies in the ve­hi­cle — enough to charge him with pos­ses­sion with in­tent to dis­trib­ute co­caine.

Pros­e­cu­tors also al­lege that in Novem­ber 2015 he tried to sell an AR-15 to an­other per­son for $1,200, and in court pa­pers cite text mes­sages sent be­tween March and May 2016 dis­cussing drug and gun trans­ac­tions.

John­son’s at­tor­ney, Wil­liam Bren­nan, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The new fed­eral in­dict­ment charges all nine de­fen­dants with con­spir­ing to vi­o­late fed­eral rack­e­teer­ing and drug traf­fick­ing laws. John­son and Wes­ley Ja­mal Brown, 24, are also charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der in aid of rack­e­teer­ing and mur­der in aid of rack­e­teer­ing.

Au­thor­i­ties say the pair were in­volved in the May 2013 mur­der of Moses Malone, who had pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to law en­force­ment about a rob­bery and shoot­ing al­legedly com­mit­ted by Brown’s half brother, Nor­man Handy. Brown, ac­quit­ted of Malone’s mur­der in state court last year, was con­victed on a gang charge and sen­tenced to 10 years in prison.

De­fense at­tor­ney Joshua Ins­ley rep­re­sented Brown at his jury trial and said the mur­der case “was a dis­as­ter from start to fin­ish” for city pros­e­cu­tors.

“The jury only con­victed Wes­ley Brown on one count be­cause of some drugs found near some gang lit­er­a­ture,” said Ins­ley, who is not rep­re­sent­ing Brown on the fed­eral charges. “They never es­tab­lished he had any real rank in the gang, never es­tab­lished that he had or­dered any­thing to hap­pen, never es­tab­lished that he par­tic­i­pated in any mur­ders. The jury ac­quit­ted him for a rea­son.”

Handy, 22, is also charged with rack­e­teer­ing in the new in­dict­ment. It’s a third try for au­thor­i­ties against Handy. He was first charged with shoot­ing Malone in 2013, but five months later the case was dropped. He was then charged in the mas­sive state case and pleaded guilty to gang and rob­bery charges and re­ceived15 years in prison, with all but five years of that time sus­pended. Now Handy is charged again on es­sen­tially the same al­le­ga­tions.

“Not un­ex­pected,” said Handy’s de­fense at­tor­ney on the state charges, Richard Boucher, who oth­er­wise de­clined to com­ment.

No at­tor­neys were listed for other de­fen­dants in court records for the new charges.

In Novem­ber 2013, po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced that 48 BGF mem­bers and as­so­ciates from the Bar­clay area had been in­dicted. Thirty-eight faced charges un­der the state’s gang statute, which was rarely used at the time.

When the cases went to court, few saw lengthy prison sen­tences, in­clud­ing many who had been charged with mur­der con­spir­acy. De­fense at­tor­neys com­plained that many of the de­fen­dants faced charges based on crimes for which they had pre­vi­ously been con­victed, but were be­ing charged again un­der the um­brella of the gang statute.

Two of those charged in the new fed­eral case were among those who did re­ceive ex­tended time. David Hunter, 29, got two con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences plus 40 years. Ken­neth “Slay” Jones, also 29, was sen­tenced to two con­sec­u­tive life terms.

“It’s a new day for gangs in Bal­ti­more City, who have for far too long turned promis­ing com­mu­ni­ties into drug war zones,” State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn Mosby had said of Jones’ state con­vic­tion.

One of the sus­pects, 24-year-old Mar­quise McCants, re­mains at large. The ATF asked any­one with in­for­ma­tion about his where­abouts to call 1-888-ATF-TIPS. All state charges against McCants were dropped in Novem­ber 2015.

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