Twenty members of a Central City gang were indicted Thursday on racketeering charges and accused of running a criminal enterprise specializing in selling drugs and murdering rivals.
A new partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement called the Multi-Agency Gang Unit investigated and got a state indictment against the 3NG gang. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro used the gang unit and similar racketeering charges to round up the notorious 110ers gang a little over a month ago.
Prosecutors allege that the gang focused most of its activity at the corner of Third and South Galvez streets and surrounding areas in the Central City neighborhood. The group also goes by the names 106 & Prieur and the 39ers.
On Thursday morning, the Multi-Agency Gang Unit rounded up the members who weren't already in jail.
They have names like Boogie, Rat, Weefus and Pizzle. And the indictment alleges they targeted and retaliated against members of a rival gang, the Front of Town Killers.
The indictment alleges that several members of the gang committed at least nine murders and at times bragged about them. In one alleged act, alleged gang member McCoy Walker, a.k.a. 'Rat, a.k.a. 'Trap,' bragged that he had carried out a December 2010 double murder in New Orleans East, in which one of the victims was the popular female rapper known as 'Magnolia Shorty.'
The alleged members named in the indictment are: Walker, Alfred Clay, Charles 'Buck' Anderson (who is dead), Chris Collns, Damien'AD' Barnes, Darius 'Smooth' Knox, Demetrich 'MeMe' Robinson, Jarod 'JJ' Johnson, Kentrell 'Black' Hickerson, Kevin 'Weefus' Lynch (a.k.a. PeeWee), Lonnie 'Rilla' Ingram, Quincy 'QP' Briggs (a.k.a. 'Pizzle'), Rene 'Butcher Knife' Knockum, Ronnell 'Nelly' Owney, Tadaro 'T-Darryl' Keller, Terrioues 'T-Red' Owney; Tyrone 'T-Bone' Knockum, Washington 'Big Wash' McCaskill, Rico 'Freaky' Jackson, Chris 'Boogie' McCann (a.k.a. Snug) and Dwight 'Wight' Bush.
Terrioues 'T-Red' Owney and Tyrone 'T-Bone' Knockum are accused of at least two shootings, including the killing of 2-year-old Keira Holmes in the B.W. Cooper housing complex in December 2011.
Hickerson and Lynch are the only ones still at large.
'Turn yourself in,' said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. 'Babies being killed by your recklessness of the group you're associated with is not accepted by the people of the city of New Orleans. Turn yourself in.
This is the fourth time Cannizzaro has pursued racketeering charges against an alleged gang under the Multi-Agency Gang Unit. The 3NG roundup comes about a month after the NOPD brought in 15 alleged members of the 110'ers gang, all named in a 51-count racketeering indictment. That gang is based out of the 10th and 11th wards and has been linked to 15 murders in recent years.
Last month, the D.A. said the indictment of the 110'ers gang marked a 'rebirth of the criminal justice system.'
But with a lack of public defenders to handle such large cases, some question if state courts can handle such cases.
'It is a much more complicated proceeding from a prosecutor's standpoint as well as a defendants' standpoint,' said WWL-TV analyst and former federal prosecutor Donald 'Chick' Foret. 'There's no question this is a federal-court-type case that is being presented in state court, but it can be done.'
Cannizzaro scoffed at the idea that a racketeering prosecution might be too complex for the courts.
'Too bad,' he said, noting the Louisiana racketeering statute carries up to 50 years in prison. 'That's certainly one of the provisions in our arsenal that we're going to use to go after these violent offenders. And maybe that's been part of the problem. Maybe that's why some of these guys appear so old on this poster.. is because maybe they've been skating through this system for far too long.'
The Orleans Public Defenders, meanwhile, said in a statement that the group would be hard-pressed to handle a case load so large after having millions of dollars in cuts made to it the past two years.
'As OPD previously warned, should all 20 of the new defendants qualify for (and request) a public defender, many may not have attorneys when proceedings begin unless they have money for private counsel,' the statement read. 'The New Orleans criminal justice system will be hard-pressed to move these cases toward resolution if they move at all.'
Cannizzaro said it's up to the judges to determine if the defendants are truly indigent. Several of the 110'ers were granted indigent status in spite of the allegations that they made big money in the drug trade.
Foret said the benefits of racketeering charges in state court can pay off in harsher sentences.
'The argument could be made we're going to give these defendants harder time, we're going to give them Angola time, rather than if the case was prosecuted on Camp Street (at federal court) they would go to a federal prison,' Foret said.
Cannizzaro spokesman Chris Bowman said that law enforcement and the D.A.'s office has risen to the challenge of pursuing the more complex racketeering charges.
'And we expect the court and the defense bar to rise to that challenge,' Bowman said.