NEW ORLEANS -- Security was beefed up in Criminal Court as alleged members of an ultra-violent New Orleans street gang were brought in for arraignment.
Eight of the 20 defendants accused of being members of a murderous Central City drug a gang known as 3-N-G pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Friday.
It took nearly half an hour for Judge Camille Buras to read through the 30-count racketeering indictment, which includes 10 murders.
Taking out entire street gangs in a single case is a new strategy being used by the DA's office giving prosecutors the ability to introduce a lot more evidence in court.
But the tactic also poses some difficulties.
One of the complications of this case was revealed in court Friday morning when the Public Defender's Office said it couldn't represent any of the defendants because of conflicts with victims, witnesses and defendants in other cases.
With only six of the defendants represented by private attorneys that means the court will have find at least 12 appointed lawyers to handle the others.
"We're still trying to cross the first hurdle, which is getting everybody an attorney. Which I think is going to be difficult," Eusi Phillips, an attorney, said.
Phillips represents Tyrone Knockum, an alleged gang enforcer accused in last year's killing of two-year-old Keira Holmes. That case was already well under way as a separate matter, but it is now back to square one as part of the 3-N-G case.
"I think that it slows down the time that these cases would have normally proceeded through the system,” Phillips said. “As I mentioned earlier, a lot of these cases were already pending. They were already in sections. They were already moving. For instance, in the case of Mr. Knockum's case, we were pretty much...we had motions to do then we were going to go to trial. So now we're pretty much starting over."
Two alleged 3-N-G members -- Kentrell Hickerson and Kevin Lynch -- remain at large. Judge Buras raised their arrest bonds to $2 million dollars each.