UPDATE: More than 50 gang members indicted on various charges
Channel 3 is learning more about the law that helped Chattanooga authorities charge 54 gang members of the same gang in a roundup.
UPDATE: Channel 3 is learning more about the law that helped Chattanooga authorities charge 54 gang members of the same gang in a roundup. The arrests mark the first time a street gang in the state of Tennessee has been prosecuted as a criminal enterprise.
Channel 3 spoke to the former state representative who helped expand the law to cover gang members.
Vince Dean co-sponsored the 2012 change in law that allows prosecutors to target gangs. He said this case serves as a reminder to gang members, someone is always watching.
“This is 54 people we are getting off the street. Fifty-four people who have been involved in gang activity. Fifty-four people who have been committing crimes,” said Vince Dean.
Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean worked with the Chattanooga Police Department for 27 years, he understands the threat gangs pose to our community. When he became a state representative, he wanted to change that. Illegal drugs, sell of guns, the hiring of people to commit acts that are illegal. If they are in that business for profit, they can be charged as a group under the RICO act.
The state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO Act, is a lot like the federal version, but state statues can cover a broader spectrum of criminal law.
Dean said if convicted, these 54 gang members will face class b felonies. They could serve 12 to 20 years in prison, and a fine up to $250,000. “I hope that this sends a message to other criminal gangs that they are watching, they are building cases.”
The indictments came a day before the city's 13th Violence Reduction Initiative call-in an event hosted by city officials and police to talk face to face with gang members.
“Stay off our radar. Get you a job, take care of your family. If you need help we are here to help you. Do your thing. We don't want to put you in jail. That is never what it is,” said Troy Rogers Public Safety Coordinator for the City of Chattanooga.
Thirty men on probation and parole are required to attend the meeting. We learned one of the men scheduled to attend was arrested in the round up.
“That was a situation with the police and the DA's office. We have 30 people, 35 people that we are going to give hope to tonight. That is what we are intended to do. We're excited about that.”
Thursday’s call-in will be different from past call-ins. Gang members will not be led in and asked to sit away from city leaders. Instead, everyone will sit together. CPD's hope is those gang members who are forced to attend will take note of this week's round up, because they say it likely won't be the last.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: “It is a good day," Derrick Shaw said fighting back tears. But we also have to remain, as what Jesus said. Forgive those who do something to you. From day one to this day, I still forgive them."
He has waited almost two years for this day. He finally received the call, police said they know who killed his sister, Bianca Horton. “It was a great day. It was a great feeling, but at the end of the day, my family is not the only family that is hurting. The others are hurting as well.”
The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office said Andre Grier, Charles Shelton and Courtney High could each face the death penalty for the May 2016 murder of the young mother. Police said Horton was killed because she was a witness to the murder of Talitha Bowman. Last year Cortez Sims was convicted of that murder.
“However long, however much it takes, we will not relent on bringing individuals to justice that will do harm and violence in our community,” Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy said.
This announcement is the first time Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston used the state racketeering law to go after Chattanooga gang members.
“Some of those individuals were already in custody on preexisting charges who were served that way," Chief Roddy explained. "Quicker and safer way to bring them to service, other individuals we started attempting to locate them very early this morning.”
Chief Roddy said this roundup should serve as a warning that law enforcement officials will not tolerate this type of behavior.
“Everything we can do to help you not inflict any more harm or violence on loved ones we will do that," Chief Roddy said. "If that is to help you get out of the cycle of violence you are in, we will work towards that. But if it is also to make it towards you cannot inflict harm onto anyone else by being in custody. We will do that as well.”
It is unclear why the Alton Park Bloods were targeted for this roundup.
PREVIOUS STORY: This week the Hamilton County Grand Jury handed down a thirteen-count indictment charging more than four dozen Athens Park Bloods gang members with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, according to District Attorney Neal Pinkston's office.
The indictment also charges seven of those defendants in five homicides, including the kidnapping and murder of Bianca Horton.
Nearly half of the fifty-four defendants are already in jail on previous charges. Wednesday, more than one hundred officers and agents of the Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Housing Authority Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and United States Marshals Service began arresting the remaining defendants.
One of the defendants taken into custody, Antwon Lee, was also on HCSO’s Top 12 Most Wanted. In addition to the indictment charges, Lee was previously wanted for Violation of the Sex Offender Registry, three counts of Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault and Vandalism Under $1000.
Additionally, the following APB members are charged with murder:
- Cortez Sims for the January 20, 2014 murder of 13-year old Deontray Southers.
- Cordelle Collier, Martrel Arnold, and Johnny Clemons for the June 25, 2014 murder of Cedric Mikes.
- Andre Grier, Charles Shelton, and Courtney High, who each could face the death penalty for the May 25, 2016 murder of Bianca Horton. Horton was killed to prevent her from testifying at trial that she witnessed Cortez Sims murder Talitha Bowman. (Last year a jury convicted Sims of Bowman’s murder.)
- Courtney High for the June 12, 2016 murder of Jerica Jackson. This is a superseding indictment to High’s original charge, which adds the RICO elements to the murder.
- Courtney High for the August 16, 2016 murder of Marquise Jackson. Additionally, a female teenager was charged today in Hamilton County Juvenile Court for participating in Jackson’s murder. (Note: Marquise Jackson is not related to Jerica Jackson.)
This is the first time a criminal street gang in Hamilton County is being prosecuted as a criminal enterprise under the state’s RICO law. In 2012, the Tennessee General Assembly expanded T.C.A. § 39-12-201 et seq, to include criminal gang offenses as racketeering activity. Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean, who was a state representative at the time, sponsored the bill. It was co-sponsored by Senator Bo Watson.