Long prison terms for city gang duo
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.