Alleged gang members indicted under racketeering law - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Alleged gang members indicted under racketeering law

Law enforcement officials discuss the racketeering indictment Thursday afternoon. Law enforcement officials discuss the racketeering indictment Thursday afternoon.

New Orleans, La. — The Orleans Parish District Attorney will prosecute 20 alleged gang members under the state's racketeering law. It is the kind of case that we normally see in federal court.

The suspects are accused of not hesitating to kill even if small children were in harm's way.

"They don't show any breaks to the people of this community -- we're going to give them no breaks, either," said DA Leon Cannizzaro during a Thursday afternoon news conference in his office.

The suspects named in the 30-count racketeering indictment are allegedly members of the so-called 3NG gang, supposedly named for the intersection of Third and Galvez Streets.

The gang "conspired to distribute illegal narcotics and used violence to gain and maintain control over its area in which it operated," Cannizzaro said of the drug operation.

The investigation into the gang involved the local and federal Multi-Agency Gang Unit, known as MAG.

"It is an understatement to say that this is a dangerous group of people," said New Orleans Police Supt. Ronal Serpas.

Sixteen of the suspects named in the indictment were already in custody, and two others were arrested early Thursday morning.  Two others, identified as Kentrell Hickerson and Kevin "Pee Wee" Lynch, remained at large Thursday afternoon.

Serpas said 10 of the 20 indicted men have been arrested for murder in the past. Three of the suspects are allegedly responsible for the murder of two-year old Keira Holmes of New Orleans, and one suspect is linked to the 2010 murder of local rapper Renatta Lowe, known as "Magnolia Shorty."

"Keira Holmes, another baby killed at the ruthless, reckless, cowardly behavior of these gangs," stated Serpas.

Cannizzaro admits that using the racketeering statute makes investigating and prosecuting such cases more difficult. But he said it is necessary to paint a complete picture of the violent crimes the suspects were involved in for a long period of time.

Cannizzaro scoffs at criticism of the approach he is taking in prosecuting the suspects. "If the question is if these are too complicated cases for the public defenders and the courts to handle, I simply say that's too bad because we're coming with these kinds of cases," he said.

"It piles a lot of different charges on a lot of different people," said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti of racketeering cases in general.  

He said Louisiana's racketeering law is seldom used. "RICO makes it easier for the prosecution to get in evidence that would have been considered hearsay otherwise in a single person trial. So he's showing them that he's going to use the resources, and it isn't just the feds who can do these big groups," said Raspanti.

Clearly some of the accused are middle-aged.  "These people aren't for rehabilitation, they've made their choice -- they're criminals," said Serpas.

"And maybe that's been a part of the problem, that's why some of these guys appear so old on this poster... is because maybe they've been skating through this system for far too long," added Cannizzaro.

Tulane University criminologist Peter Scharf said research findings are mixed on whether these kinds of sweeps really put a dent in violence.

"This is not crime penicillin, you know, it really isn't," said Dr. Scharf.

He said oftentimes when members of one gang are taken off the street, other gangs try to move into the area, spawning violence. "When you take out a whole gang group... so it isn't like this vacuum and all crime stops in the neighborhood.  What you can have is more feuds among multiple groups fighting for their place on the street corner," he said.

Chief Serpas urged the two suspects who have not been caught to turn themselves in.

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