Cell phone video shows East Hollygrove gang members selling crack-cocaine in a car with a 4-year-old boy in the back seat. For a few minutes, the buyer and dealers debate the drug size and money owed.
"Just give me the money. It's .3. I look out," one of the two drug dealers can be heard saying.
The buyer responds, "It's too small my brother."
Throughout the video, the buyer constantly complains that "it's too small."
"It's way too small," the buyer said. "I'm telling you, dog, I've been paying fifty for each one, and I've been coming here every day. I stay with y'all."
Unfortunately, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said, the buyer was concerned about the crack cocaine rock instead of the small, 4-year-old boy sitting next to him. Video shows the boy watch the entire transaction unfold.
"You can tell he's soaking it all in," said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite. "He seems disturbed in some respects. I've seen the video, I've seen his face, but at times he also looks like this is not new to him. This is something that he's probably seen at other times."
The child wasn't related to anyone in the car, said Polite. The gang members took turns baby-sitting him.
"We do have reason to believe that they, they kind of viewed him as a, almost as a mascot for their organization," said Polite.
A mascot whom, Polite said, the gang members brought to more gang activities than just the one deal recorded on a cell phone camera.
"From the pictures, which are in some respects much more disturbing, he's playing around with a semi-automatic gun. We have reason to believe this was a young person who was around these individuals on a regular basis," Polite said.
The individuals, Polite said, often used guns during their deals, and they can be heard threatening the buyer in the cell phone video. They also showed the drugs to the camera right in front of the boy.The dealer can be heard saying,
"You like that one, huh? Look, show the camera that one. That one, that, that, that, that's what it's about son. That's what it's about son."
One of the dealers went from behind the wheel to behind bars. The driver plead guilty in federal court and will spend four years in prison.
Polite said the Wednesday (Oct. 8) conviction is just a start when it comes to protecting children from men like the driver, the dealer taking the video, and many more gang members still on the streets.
"With young people living in neighborhoods where this kind of violence, this kind of drug trafficking is happening right in front of their eyes everyday and that's not captured on video. We don't get a chance to see that. We don't get a chance to intervene in their lives in a way we were able to get some intervention in place for this young person,"
Polite said.The U.S. Attorney's Office provided this information about the gang members:
"U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that AVIAN BRULE, a/k/a 'Ave,' 21, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sentenced yesterday after having pled guilty to federal drug and firearm violations. Judge Ivan L.M. Lemelle sentenced BRULE, a first-time offender, to serve 50 months in federal prison and ordered him to serve 3 years of supervised release once he is released from prison.
"BRULE was one of seven defendants charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine base in the East Hollygrove neighborhood. In addition, all seven defendants were charged with conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of their drug trafficking crimes, and several of them were charged with committing substantive acts of violence.
"To date, all of the gang members in this case, except for CHARLES JOHNSON, a/k/a 'Chuck,' 25, have pled guilty to various charges. JOHNSON is scheduled for trial on December 8, 2014. The following co-defendants are currently pending separate sentencing hearings over the next two months: ROBERT JOHNSON, a/k/a 'Skinny,' 24; THOMAS HENDERSON, a/k/a 'T,' 24; LAVELL STOVAL, a/k/a 'Vell,' 21; WILLIAM HENDERSON, a/k/a 'Will,' 20; and, ERSKINE WATERS, 22.
"According to court documents and evidence presented at BRULE's sentencing, federal agents seized a cellular phone from co-defendant WILLIAM HENDERSON. After obtaining a search warrant for the phone, agents found a video, recorded on November 5, 2012, that WILLIAM HENDERSON took of himself and BRULE conducting a heroin sale in a car with a known third party. (See attached video) In the video BRULE and HENDERSON are seen negotiating a heroin deal while a four-year-old child was sitting in the backseat of the car. Additional pictures retrieved from HENDERSON's phone show the same child holding a semi-automatic handgun in the backseat of the same vehicle. (See attached photographs)
"U.S. Attorney Polite stated, 'Even as a first-time offender, Avian Brule deserved the lengthy jail sentence imposed here. He and his East Hollygrove gang members terrorized their own neighborhood through narcotics trafficking and violence. Even worse, Brule and his fellow defendants exposed a four-year-old boy to their criminal conduct. Being exposed to guns and drugs certainly placed this boy at risk of physical harm. At the same time, it jeopardizes his future, as the misguided lesson learned by him –and other young people in the same predicament – is that this conduct is acceptable, normal, and even encouraged. It certainly is not. We must use all available tools – prevention, intervention and enforcement – to break this cycle of criminality.'
"U.S. Polite praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigations as part of the MAG Unit in investigating this matter. Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division and Assistant United States Maurice E. Landrieu, Jr. is in charge of this prosecution."
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