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Federal trial winding down for 12 alleged York City gang members
You don't have to call York City's Southside a gang or crew, federal prosecutor Michael Consiglio told jurors — you could alternately call the group a "mutual protection society" or "mutual benefit society."
But no matter what label you ascribe to Southside, it was and remains a criminal enterprise engaged in racketeering, he told jurors Thursday morning during his three-hour closing argument in the six-week trial of 12 alleged Southside gang members.
Members work together to protect their drug-trafficking turf, and each other, through murder, violence, retaliation and intimidation, according to Consiglio, who said that violence is often directed at rival gangs Parkway, Westside and Eastside, which give as good as they get.
Gang beefs have led to numerous shootouts, shootings and murders, according to the prosecutor.
"You may not be the guy out there with a gun," he said, but if you're part of Southside's alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy, "you're on the hook too, because you're benefitting from that protection."
One of those gang- related murders happened on Mother's Day, May 10, 2009. In retaliation for earlier gang encounters, several members of the Parkway gang drove to the 500 block of South Duke Street in broad daylight and opened fire on Southside members, about eight of whom were hanging out, Consiglio said.
Code of silence: A stray bullet killed 9-year-old Ciara "CeCe" Savage of Lancaster City as she and about five other children played on the block.
"How many people came forward (and cooperated with police)? Two," Consiglio said. "It's understood: Don't snitch. Don't cooperate."
That code of silence even applies to family of gang members who become victims, he said.
"(Southside member) Laquan Beatty denied his own brother" by refusing to tell police who shot 21-year-old Kyle Westry, his half-brother, during a Southside/Westside gang shootout involving at least five shooters on June 21, 2012, according to Consiglio.
The prosecutor reminded jurors of testimony linking a number of other York City murders to Southside gang violence, as well as a number of shootouts and a Sept. 2, 2012, gang-related melee in the area of the Rutter's Farm Store on Route 30 in York City that left two people shot, including a woman who was gravely injured, and two men boot-stomped.
But the primary objective of Southside isn't to commit street violence, the prosecutor said; it's to make money by selling drugs — heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
Bags of cash: When local and federal authorities raided nine of Southside's stash houses in September 2014, they found and seized "duffel bags full of cash," a $50,000 gold necklace, a $97,000 Rolex watch and a number of stolen guns hidden in wall safes and behind trap doors, he said.
Testimony also linked Southside to the notorious Bloods gang in New York, and several Southside members are also Bloods, Consiglio said.
He scoffed at the suggestion by the defendants' defense attorneys that all these "beefs" that led to shootings and murders were personal, meaning between individuals.
He also dismissed what he said was the defense's assertion that the trial is a prosecution of a neighborhood rather than a criminal enterprise.
Two-year probe: The trial is the culmination of a massive two-year investigation into gang-related violence and drug-dealing.
Nine of the co-defendants have pleaded guilty, officials said. Trial began Sept. 23 for the dozen remaining defendants.
All 21 are alleged to be current or former members of Southside, which operates in a southeastern portion of the city called "The Jungle," according to their federal indictments, handed down in September 2014.
At the time, 15 of them were serving state or county prison sentences, officials have said.
Consiglio estimated he called between 150 and 200 witnesses to the stand since the trial began.
He told jurors they can expect to hear up to 15 hours worth of closing arguments from the defendants' attorneys, after which Consiglio will present rebuttal testimony.
The defendants: On trial are alleged Southside kingpins Marc "Marky D" Hernandez and Rolando "Mico" Cruz Jr., as well as alleged gang members Tyree "Ree" Eatmon, Douglas "Killer" Kelly, Roscoe "P Shawn" Villega, Eugene "B Mor" Rice, Jalik "Murder Cat" Frederick, Brandon "B Or" Orr, Angel "Pocko" Schueg, Anthony "Kanye" Sistrunk, Jabree "Minute" Williams and Maurice "Mo" Atkinson.
Eatmon's half-brother, James "Doocs" Abney, who authorities said was one of the leaders and main enforcers of Southside, pleaded guilty in August to federal racketeering and drug-conspiracy charges, according to federal records. He is awaiting sentence.
At the time of the indictments, officials said the gang had about 100 members.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.