CHICAGO — For the past five weeks, a federal jury has been submerged in a small section of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where prosecutors say a tight-knit street gang called the Goonies acted as “urban hunters,” terrorizing residents and ruling their territory through a relentless wave of armed violence.

Jurors have seen the murders unfold on surveillance video. They have seen posts on social media in which Goonie members allegedly kept counts of victims and “rejoiced” at the deaths of their rivals.

And they heard testimony from a parade of cooperating witnesses who described each member’s alleged role in the organization, including one nicknamed “Steph Curry” for his accuracy at long range — only with a gun, not a basketball.

Leading the charge was Romeo “O Dog” Blackman, who joined the gang as a teenager and literally shot his way to the top, Assistant US Attorney Maureen McCurry said in closing arguments Tuesday at the trial. for Blackman racketeering and two alleged henchmen.

“The more (Blackman) shot, the more respected and feared he became,” McCurry said, adding that Blackman was directly linked to four murders in the indictment. “He put in a lot of work to get to where he needed to go.

Blackman and his co-defendants, Terrance “T” Smith and Jolicious “Jo Jo” Turman, are charged with racketeering conspiracy and committing murder in furtherance of a racketeering conspiracy, which carries a mandatory life sentence upon conviction. In all, the indictment alleges that the Goonies were responsible for 10 murders and six attempted murders in an 18-month span between 2014 and 2016.

Defense attorneys are scheduled to begin their presentations Wednesday morning in the courtroom of US District Judge John Robert Blakey, where the trial began May 16.

Lawyers for the defendants urged jurors in opening remarks not to let their feelings about gang violence get in the way of the facts, and warned that many of the government witnesses were cooperating in exchange for breaks in their own cases, and some were granted immunity despite their alleged involvement in much of the violence.

“This case is not a referendum on street gangs,” attorney Patrick Blegen, who represents Blackman, said in his opening statement. “The government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Goonies were an organized crime enterprise and that they committed these acts.”

Unlike more traditional street gangs that were highly organized and focused on protecting the turf from drugs, the Goonies, a faction of the notorious Gangster Disciples, allegedly compromised in a surprisingly petty cycle of violence with rivals, where shooting opps was an almost daily routine and killings were boasted on Facebook and other social media.

In his four-hour closing argument Tuesday, McCurry said Goonie members acted as “urban hunters,” stalking targets and terrorizing a neighborhood where “real people live, work and shop.”

The Goonies’ currency “was power and respect,” and to achieve this they used most of the money earned through membership dues and drug sales to buy more weapons, many through a fake buying pipeline. who trafficked in guns purchased at gun stores in Kalamazoo. , Michigan, McCurry said.

Through social media, undercover recordings and witness testimony, the jury heard how the Goonies were obsessed with “score” between themselves and their rivals, with every shot at one of their own met with immediate and often retaliation. , indiscriminate.

McCurry said the Goonies even had a boastful phrase they used when the score was in their favor: “We’re up on chances.”

The translation, he said, was simple: “We killed more of them than they killed us.”

When it came to retaliation, McCurry said rival gang members weren’t the Goonies’ only target. When one of his own, 28-year-old Robert “Winnie” Vaughn, was fatally shot in July 2016, Blackman issued an order that anyone caught by the gang outside was easy prey, including “babies, moms, dads and dogs,” McCurry said.

“The gloves were off. Anything goes,” McCurry said. “They had to even the score…and make no mistake, Blackman was saying they could kill babies and innocent animals in revenge for Winnie’s death.”

Winnie’s younger brother, Alex Vaughn, was in the Cook County Jail on a weapons possession charge when he received word of his brother’s death. vaughn testified last month he was heartbroken and soon made the decision to cooperate with the authorities, who had already contacted him in prison.

Later that year, Vaughn secretly recorded Turman speaking about the alleged circumstances of Winnie’s murder and the Goonies’ quick retaliation attempt, when both were being held on the same level of the jail, according to his testimony.

In the muffled recording, which was played for the jury, Turman said the rivals had “shot up” Winnie’s car because “someone was making (expletive) up on Facebook,” according to a transcript in court records.

Turman said that he and his fellow gang members left early that morning seeking revenge.

“You know how we do it,” Turman said on the recording. “You know how I roll… a mother (expletive) needs to leave this earth.”

Shortly after 6 a.m., they encountered Kenneth Whitaker, 34, a security guard with three children and no gang ties, walking down 74th and Morgan streets, according to prosecutors and earlier versions of the Tribune.

Turman allegedly jumped out of the car and shot Whitaker twice in the head, execution-style. Jurors were shown crime scene photos of Whitaker’s body lying near the sidewalk outside Stagg Elementary School on South Morgan Street.

In the conversation with Vaughn at the Cook County Jail, Turman said they had driven “everywhere” looking for someone to shoot and “caught a mother (expletive) right in front of Stagg,” according to the transcript.

“Who was it, one of the Moes?” Vaughn asked, referring to a rival gang.

“I don’t know, some mother (expletive),” Turman responded. “Whoever’s out.”

Asked by prosecutors what that meant, Vaughn replied that Turman was saying they had shot “basically anyone they caught walking.”

The Goonies allegedly came of age in the age of Facebook, and the trial has been unique for its focus on the gang’s social media activities.

Jurors were shown numerous Facebook profile pages and chats allegedly between gang members where they discussed mundane topics like meetings and dues and also posted disturbing videos celebrating when someone was killed.

One such video played during closing arguments was released after the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Davon “D-Money” Horace in January 2016. Prosecutors alleged that Blackman shot and killed Horace in an attempt to kill a rival who was close to him.

Even though Blackman missed the target, McCurry said, the Goonies posted a live video on Facebook shortly after the shooting “rejoicing in the death of another human being.”

The video showed a dozen gang members, some as young as 14, brandishing weapons at the camera and dancing while taunting the victim, chanting, “How did you (expletive) hit him?” and “One in the head, without a lie.”

McCurry also highlighted the May 2016 murder of Gerald Sias Jr., an innocent bystander who was shot while getting a haircut at a popular neighborhood barbershop on a weekday afternoon.

Vaughn testified that he, Blackman, and two other Goonie members were out that day to avenge the murder of one of their own. When they heard their target was in the store, they stopped and one of the younger Goonies ran in and opened fire. When the gunman got back in the car, “He was like, ‘Got it! I have it!’ Vaughn testified.

Later, however, Blackman received a call on his phone and his face grew angry, Vaughn told the jury. “He was like, ‘You didn’t get it. You’ve got somebody else,'” Vaughn said.

Sias, 38, a father of five with no gang ties, died later at a nearby hospital.

Sias’s friend, who was injured in the leg, testified that he has since had 56 surgeries as a result and believes his leg will still need to be amputated.

Shortly after Sias’s murder, a Facebook post on an account associated with the Goonies showed a photo of Sias with a crying and laughing emoji on top of it.

“It was the Goonies taking credit for a length, adding another to their score,” McCurry said.


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