Charges come after three-year investigaton involving Racine police, Racne County sheriff and FBI
BY MARCI LAEHR TENUTA
RACINE - Thirteen Racine members and associates of the Gangster Disciples have been indicted on federal racketeering charges related to five murders, 10 attempted murders and numerous other crimes.
The indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday, lists the accused as Plaze Anderson, Terrance Banks, Terrell Banks, Marcus Caldwell, R.T. Clay, Kevin Crump, Ysef Gibbs, Shannon Ingram, Braderick Jones, Robert Smith, Tyrone Smith, Theodis Thomas, and DeShawn Wright.
Besides the murder charges, the gang members are accused of drug trafficking, armed robbery, kidnapping, arson and intimidation ofwitnesses.
The investigation began three years ago at the suggestion of Racine police Investigator Jon Soderberg, who has since retired. He believed the Gangster Disciples' pattern of violence dating back to 1992 should be looked into further.
Racine police, Racine County sheriff's investigators and FBI agents formed a task force to investigate the illegal activities of the Gangster Disciples. Those agencies and the U.S. attorneys who will be prosecuting the case held a press conference Wednesday at the Thelma Orr COP House at 10th Street and Davis Place to discuss theindictments.
U.S. Attorney Jim Santelle said a federal grand jury returned the indictment against the 13 men Oct. 10.
All of the accused are now in custody. Authorities said 10 of the men were in prison on various other charges. Last week FBI agents arrested Smith in Missouri and Crump in Chicago. Wright was taken into custody here on Friday.
"This is plainly a very serious indictment,"Santelle said. He said the seriousness of the allegations make the case one of the most significant in the history of Southeastern Wisconsin.
The case will be prosecuted by U.S. Assistant Attorneys Brian Pawlak and Mario Gonzalez. Pawlak, a former prosecutor with the Racine County District Attorney's Office, said the men face maximum sentences of life in prison and fines up to $4 million.
Sixteen racketeering charges listed in the indictment accuse:
* Ingram of conspiracy to murder Lula Blair;
* Anderson, Terrance and Terrell Banks, Caldwell, Crump, Gibbs, Ingram and Smith with drug conspiracy;
* Anderson of attempting to murder Curtis McClain;
* Anderson, Crump, Ingram, Smith and Gibbs with the murder of Derrick Cannon, the attempted murder of Carlos Gamel, the attempted murder of Clifford Griffin, and the attempted murder of George Nicks;
* Anderson of armed robbery and intimidation of a witness;
* Ingram with the attempted murder of Corey Fields and the attempted murder of Antonio White;
* Caldwell, Gibbs, Ingram and Smith of the murder of Fields;
* Caldwell, Clay and Ingram with conspiracy to commit armed robbery against Dana Griffin;
* Clay of murdering AntonioVallejo;
* Terrance Banks of drugtrafficking;
* Anderson, Terrance Banks and Terrell Banks with the March 27, 1997 attempted arson of the COP House at 1102 12th St.;
* Anderson with the murder of Eduardo Gonzales;
* Anderson and Terrell Banks of attempting to murder Shawn Love;
* Terrell Banks of drugtrafficking;
* Anderson with the kidnapping, attempted murder and intimidation of a witness;
* Crump of the attempted murder of Fredario Brim;
* Anderson of the attempted murder of Terrales Bolton.
Wright, Smith and Crump have already had initial appearances in federal court. The rest of the accused are expected to make appearances next month, Pawlak said.
Racine Police Capt. Carl Pavilonis said the investigation started in the spring of 1999 when Soderberg came into his office and said he saw a pattern of violence, including what was believed to be ordered hits, committed by the Gangster Disciples.
A task force was formed including Soderberg and Investigators Mark Barrows, Alan Herriott, and Sgt. Dave Smetana of the Racine Police Department, Investigator John Hanrahan and Sgt. Brian Londre of the Racine County Sheriff's Department, and FBI agent Jean LaPlace.
Pavilonis said police initially met resistance from witnesses who were scared of the Gangster Disciples and their intimidation tactics.
Pawlak said Lula Blair's case got as far as a preliminary hearing, but witnesses backed out when the courtroom filled with Gangster Disciples. "The case ended up being dismissed," he said.
Pavilonis said the shooter in the Gonzalez homicide, Larry Thorpe, was convicted in 1998. However, authorities wanted the men who ordered the murder. Pavilonis said once federal agents were brought in, people began to realize how serious the charges were, and began to talk.
"The gears really switched," he said. "Hopefully this will bring some resolution to the victims' family members. This was a job to us. This was life to them."
For families of the murder victims, the charging of the suspects has been a long and emotionally draining process. But the end result is one they are happy with.
Marcus Cannon, brother of homicide victim Derrick Cannon, said the indictment is a tremendous relief. "It's been a burden knowing that no one's been held responsible,'' he said. "Now we're bringing closure to this."
Since the 1994 murder of his brother, Cannon said he has heard bits and pieces on the street about who was actually responsible, but he never knew what to believe. "It's good to know it's over," he said. "They're all in jail."
Cannon praised Soderberg and the other investigators who worked to piece the cases together. "I'm so proud," he said. "They went the extra mile. I really congratulate them for that."
Leona Fields, Corey Fields' aunt, said her family has been waiting six years for answers. "It was frustrating,'' she said. "It's been a long six years."
In the last two, knowing an investigation was taking place, Fields said the family has been hopeful.
Leona Fields said she hopes that now the community will be a little bit safer.
"We've waited a long time for this," said Assistant Racine Police Chief Al Baker. He said the indictments send a message to lawbreakers in Racine. "There's going to be no escaping your responsibilities," he warned. "This team's going to hunt you down."
Racine County Sheriff Bill McReynolds resounded Baker's words. "We're going to go to any means to take back the streets of Racine and Racine County."
Pavilonis said investigators are not through yet. "We've got several homicides we hope to solve," he said. "There's more to come. These people are not going to be able to hide."