Jury convicts 12 members of York City’s Southside gang
Some members of York City’s violent Southside gang are facing possible life sentences for their participation in furthering the gang’s ability to deal drugs and intimidate those who would cross Southside, according to the federal prosecutor who tried the case.
On Monday afternoon, a federal jury in Harrisburg convicted 12 purported Southside members of offenses including racketeering and drug-dealing, officials said.
Eight others pleaded guilty and one defendant has not yet gone to trial, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Southside members work together to protect their drug-trafficking turf, and each other, through murder, violence, retaliation and intimidation, according to assistant U.S. attorney Michael Consiglio, who led the prosecution during the nearly eight-week trial.
You don’t have to call Southside a gang or crew, Consiglio told jurors last week during his three-hour closing argument — you could alternately call the group a “mutual protection society” or “mutual benefit society.” Whatever the label, he argued, it’s a criminal enterprise.
“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.”
The investigation: Consiglio on Tuesday acknowledged the Southside prosecution consumed most of his time for the last six months, but noted most state or federal prosecutors have “a lot of irons in the fire” at any given time.
The verdicts are the culmination of a massive two-year investigation into Southside by York City Police, the ATF, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the York County District Attorney’s Office and other local police departments.
“What we did for a few months here on this case is what the local authorities do day in and day out,” Consiglio said Tuesday. “They fight the good fight all the time.”
Case of a lifetime: One of the local officers assigned to the case basically full time for more than two years is York City Detective First Class Andrew Shaffer. He and the entire city narcotics squad devoted itself to tackling Southside.
“(In spite of) the lack of resources we have in York City, we were still able to pull off probably the case of my lifetime,” he said. “That’s what I’m the most proud of.”
Shaffer called the convictions a “huge win for the people who live in those communities” where Southside is established. “It wasn’t just the drug dealing. There was so much violence — so many shootings and homicides, so much gunfire back and forth.”
He and other York City detectives went to Harrisburg almost every day for trial, although some were sequestered as witnesses and couldn’t sit in it.
“We were transporting witnesses and going to find witnesses,” Shaffer said. “We had a lot of witnesses who didn’t want to be there. So if they didn’t show up, a warrant was issued and we went and got them.”
Sentencing: It could take at least six or eight months for all 20 defendants to be sentenced, according to Consiglio. One co-defendant still has not gone to trial.
Sentencing in the federal system can by tricky, the prosecutor said, and includes weighing heavily a defendant’s past and criminal history. He called it a very individualized process.
“It’s safe to say that sentencing guidelines for close to the majority of these defendants will likely be in the 30-years-to-life-in-prison range,” Consiglio said.
When the jury announced its verdicts Monday afternoon, it took quite a bit of time. That’s because defendants were brought into the courtroom one at a time, then led out before the next was brought it, Consiglio confirmed.
Security risk: Merely having 12 co-defendants in one room creates certain security risks, he said — and especially when they are part of a violent group prone to act uncontrollably.
“We figured the best way to do it was one at a time,” Consiglio said, since in the past Southside members “were willing to go to great lengths to obstruct the criminal justice system and to mete out their brand of justice outside of the system.”
“Because it’s a street gang ... a lot of precautions get taken,” said U.S. Attorney Peter Smith. “We’re always on the alert ... for the possibility of that situation arising.”
The courtroom was very crowded with defendants, attorneys and observers, Smith said.
One defense attorney tallied the number of prosecution witnesses called to the stand and came up with 221, according to Consiglio. Some of them were called to the stand more than once, he said, and estimated the total number of individual prosecution witnesses was 150.
Convicted: Found guilty Monday were:
Marc “Marky D” Hernandez, 30, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, drug possession with intent to deliver and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking
Rolando “Mico” Cruz, 30, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, drug possession with intent to deliver and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking
Douglas “Killer” Kelly, 37, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Roscoe “P Shawn” Villega, 41, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Tyree “Ree” Eatmon, 27, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Maurice “Mo” Atkinson, 28, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Anthony “Kanye” Sistrunk, 27, racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Eugene “B Mor” Rice, 27, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Angel “Pocko” Schueg, 26, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver
Jalik “Murder Cat” Frederick, 22, drug possession with intent to deliver
Brandon “B Or” Orr, 23, drug possession with intent to deliver
Jabree “Minute” Williams, 24, drug possession with intent to deliver.
Guilty pleas: Southside gang members who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy prior to the trial are:
James “Doocs” Abney, 29, who authorities say was one of the leaders and main enforcers of Southside.
Malik “Base” Sturdivant, 23
Jahkeem “Foo” Abney, 25
Ronald “Ron Ron” Payton, age 23
Cordaress “Tank” Rogers, 29
Marquis “Quis” Williams, 27
Jerrod “Boogie” Brown, 26
Quintez “Q” Hall, 23.
Hernandez and Cruz were the primary leaders of the gang, Consiglio indicated to jurors.
No sentencing date has been set for any of the defendants, all of whom remain locked up.
The 21st defendant, Richard Nolden, 25, is awaiting trial after his case was severed from the others, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and is currently serving a lengthy state prison sentence.
All 21 defendants are 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.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.