Long prison terms for city gang duo

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jessica Lerner

NEW HAVEN — Tears and cracked voices re­ver­ber­ated through the court­room Wed­nes­day as fam­ily mem­bers of vic­tims gave their im­pact state­ments in fed­eral court dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing of a lo­cal gang leader.

Jef­frey Ben­ton, 32, of New Haven, was sen­tenced to 40 years in prison for en­gag­ing in a pat­tern of rack­e­teer­ing ac­tiv­ity, money laun­der­ing and con­spir­acy to dis­trib­ute 280 grams of co­caine base, after plead­ing guilty March 17 to these charges.

Gang mem­ber Robert Short, also known as “San­tana,” 30, was sen­tenced Wed­nes­day to 30 years in prison.

In plead­ing guilty, Ben­ton, a leader of Red Side Guerilla Brims, a sect of the Bloods street gang based in New Haven, had also ad­mit­ted his in­volve­ment in sev­eral acts of gang-re­lated vi­o­lence in New Haven, “in­clud­ing the non-fa­tal shoot­ing of an in­di­vid­ual on Feb. 23, 2011; the mur­der of Kevin Lee on April 20, 2011; the mur­der of Don­nell Al­lick on June 24, 2011; the mur­der of Dar­rick Cooper on Sept. 19, 2011, and the mur­der of Donald Bolden on March 19, 2012,” ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from fed­eral author­i­ties.

In Jan­uary 2014, ATF and the New Haven Po­lice De­part­ment be­gan “Op­er­a­tion Red Side,” an investigation which re­vealed mem­bers and as­so­ciates of the

RSGB were en­gaged in nar­cotics traf­fick­ing and re­lated acts of vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing mur­der, at­tempted mur­der, as­sault and armed rob­bery.

“Jef­frey Ben­ton was the leader of the Red Side Guerilla Brims, a sav­age and ruth­less nar­cotics gang that ter­ror­ized New Haven in 2011 and 2012,” U.S. At­tor­ney Deirdre Daly said in a re­lease. “Ben­ton and his RSGB gang mem­bers not only traf­ficked in crack co­caine and firearms from Con­necti­cut to Maine, but far worse they were re­spon­si­ble for mul­ti­ple homi­cides. Ben­ton or­dered three homi­cides and killed Don­nell Al­lick him­self. We hope that his guilty plea ... brings some small de­gree of so­lace to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.”

Daly said, “Ben­ton and his RSGB co­horts, in­clud­ing Robert Short, were re­spon­si­ble for at least seven mur­ders, mul­ti­ple at­tempted mur­ders, armed rob­beries, and drug and gun run­ning.”

The seats in the court room were filled with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies, along with mem­bers of the com­mu­nity; peo­ple who grew up with Ben­ton, peo­ple who faced some of the same strug­gles as he did and peo­ple who, as mul­ti­ple in­di­vid­u­als tes­ti­fied, con­sid­ered him a mem­ber of their ex­tended fam­ily.

There were shared mem­o­ries of bet­ter times but also peo­ple ask­ing ques­tions of how and why this hap­pened, try­ing to make sense of ev­ery­thing. Theresa Bar­ber, Cooper’s sis­ter, said this isn’t just about rack­e­teer­ing or drug deal­ing, but it’s “big­ger than a court case” be­cause it in­volves the loss of lives.

Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall, who presided over the sen­tenc­ing, de­scribed the vi­o­lence Ben­ton was re­spon­si­ble for as “so sense­less” and “so un­speak­able” that she could not “even ar­tic­u­late the de­gree of harm [he] caused.”

Ben­ton has been in fed­eral cus­tody since May 17, 2012. He was pre­vi­ously sen­tenced to nine years in prison for con­spir­acy to pos­sess with in­tent to dis­trib­ute, and to dis­trib­ute, 100 grams or more of heroin.

Fed­eral author­i­ties said Short pleaded guilty March 21 to one count of caus­ing a death through the use of a firearm dur­ing and in re­la­tion to a crime of vi­o­lence. Short “ad­mit­ted that he was or­dered by Ben­ton and other RSGB lead­ers to mur­der Dar­rick Cooper, who was a leader of a ri­val gang and seen as a threat. On Septem­ber 19, 2011, Short lured Cooper to a lo­ca­tion in Ham­den and shot Cooper in the back of the head as Cooper walked up a stair­case,” the re­lease said.

As a re­sult of this investigation, 21 mem­bers and as­so­ciates of the RSGB were con­victed of fed­eral charges in Con­necti­cut and Maine. The investigation has re­solved seven mur­der cases, four at­tempted mur­ders and four armed rob­beries in 2011 and 2012.

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