Gangfighters Weblog

March 11, 2011

Perceptions of Gang Investigation Regarding Presence of Military-Trained Gang Members

View this document in ProQuest

Abstract (summary)

Communities everywhere have experienced the negative effects of street gangs. Gang activity in the form of crime and violence has had a devastating effect on the lives of citizens and the safety of our communities. The presence of military-trained gang members (MTGMs) in the community increases the threat of violence to citizens. The problem addressed in this quantitative correlational research study was the apparently growing presence of military-trained gang members in civilian communities. The purpose of the study was to more closely examine the nexus between the perceived presence of military-trained gang members and the perceptions of gang investigators regarding the presence and the size of their jurisdictions, the proximity of their jurisdictions to a military installation, and the extent to which investigators participate in anti-gang activities. An online survey, the Military Gang Perception Questionnaire (MGPQ), was created to collect responses from the 260 active members of the Tennessee Gang Investigators Association (TNGIA). The electronic distribution of the survey was facilitated by Google Documents. A sample size calculation was computed for a multiple regression analysis involving seven predictors, a significance level of .05, a power of 80%, and a medium effect size (f 2 =0.15). That power analysis indicated that N =103 was sufficient to detect this size of effect. The statistical analyses used to test the hypotheses in this study were Pearson and Spearman Correlation Coefficients, independent means t tests, and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) Regression analysis. Many of the 119 respondents felt anti-gang prohibitions would limit the activity of MTGMs. Respondents reported a mean of 11% of the gang members in their jurisdictions were MTGMs. The Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve were identified as the largest sources of MTGMs and the Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciples were the gangs most represented. There was a statistically significant positive correlation (ρ=.24, p <.05) between MTGM presence percent score and jurisdiction size. There was also a statistically significant positive correlation (ρ=.28, p <.05) between MTGM presence percent score and the distance from the nearest military installation (computed). Recommendations included that military leadership should conduct cumulative tracking and analysis of gang threats, and apply an all-hands approach to identifying gang members in the military. When an installation shows a decrease in gang-related activity, solutions that led to the decrease should be identified. Military leadership should identify and examine all suspected military gang members and policy makers should identify gangs and related groups as Security Threat Groups.

Indexing (details)

Subjects Criminology, Public policy, Military studies
Classification 0627: Criminology, 0630: Public policy, 0750: Military studies
Identifiers / Keywords Social sciences, Gangs, Street gangs, Military, Armed forces, Gang members, Military-trained
Title Perceptions of Gang Investigation Regarding Presence of Military-Trained Gang Members
Authors Smith, Carter F.
Publication title ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Number of pages 202
Publication year 2010
Publication Date 2010
Year 2010
Section 1443
ISBN 9781124391373
Advisor House, John
School Northcentral University
School location United States — Arizona
Degree Ph.D.
Source type Dissertations & Theses
Language of Publication English; EN
Document Type Dissertation/Thesis
Publication / Order Number 3437991
ProQuest Document ID 845233422
Document URL http://rap.ocls.ca/ra/login?url=/docview/845233422
Copyright Copyright ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing 2010
Last Updated 2011-01-27

November 30, 2010

Perceptions of gang investigators regarding presence of military trained gang members

The problem addressed was the presence of military-trained gang members in civilian communities. The purpose was to determine the perceived presence of military-trained gang members and to examine whether there was a relationship between the perceptions of gang investigators regarding that presence and the size of their jurisdictions, proximity of jurisdictions to military installations, and extent to which investigators participated in anti-gang activities.

The Military Gang Perception Questionnaire collected responses from the 260 active members of the Tennessee Gang Investigators Association. Respondents reported a mean of 11% of the gang members in their jurisdictions had military training. The Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve were identified as the largest sources of MTGMs, and the Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciples were most represented.

There was a statistically significant positive correlation between MTGM presence percent score and jurisdiction size. There was also a statistically significant positive correlation between MTGM presence percent score and the distance from the nearest military installation (computed).

Recommendations included that military leadership conduct cumulative tracking and analysis, and apply an all-hands approach to identifying gang members in the military. When there is a decrease in gang-related activity, solutions should be identified. Military leadership should examine all suspected gang members and policy makers should identify gangs and related groups as Security Threat Groups.

February 28, 2009

Verdict in gang-initiation death trial angers victim’s mother

Filed under: gang member, gangster disciples, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 11:45 am

Seth Robson / Stripes
Pvt. Bobby Morrissette, right, waits for the verdict during his court-martial Thursday at Vilseck, Germany.

VILSECK, Germany — Pvt. Bobby Morrissette’s acquittal on a voluntary manslaughter charge for his role in the 2005 gang initiation beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson makes a mockery of claims the Army is tough on gangs, the dead soldier’s mother said Thursday.

Johnson was badly beaten in a Gangster Disciples initiation, known as a jumping-in ceremony, near Kaiserslautern on July 3, 2005. He was found dead in his barracks room the next day.

Stephanie Cockrell reacted angrily Thursday after the military judge, Col. Timothy Grammel, announced his ruling in her son’s death.

“I’m angry, and I’m outraged that we have gangs in the military,” she said. “The court system is sending a message that it’s OK.”

In additional to the voluntary manslaughter charge, Morrissette was also acquitted on a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.

Grammel did find Morrissette guilty of a number of other charges, including participating in gang initiation rituals, impeding an investigation, impeding a trial by court-martial and willfully disobeying a commissioned officer. He also was convicted of committing an indecent act on a female in the presence of another person and wrongful use of a controlled substance, both stemming from a separate incident.

Morrissette was sentenced to 42 months’ confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.

During the three-day trial, Cockrell and others listened to witnesses describe how up to nine gang members hit and kicked Johnson for six minutes during the initiation. She left the court in tears during testimony on his injuries, which were listed in an autopsy report.

Cockrell has attended six trials of alleged gang members involved in her son’s death.

“In my opinion, everybody who was there is equally culpable,” she said.

Those involved have shown no remorse and are still gang members, she said. During Morrissette’s court-martial, for example, one of the witnesses, Airman Nicholas Sims, flashed a gang sign and referred to Morrissette as “my brother,” she said.

“[The Gangster Disciples] talk about family. That’s not how they treated my son,” she said.

During the court-martial, prosecutors argued that the court needed to send a message that gangs in the military would not be tolerated.

“The military rank structure meant nothing to this gang. These gang members would unquestioningly follow the orders of their governor,” prosecution lawyer Greg O’Malley told the court.

Gang members sported Gangster Disciples tattoos, wore gang clothing and started fights with local nationals and members of other gangs in Kaiserslautern, he said.

However, Morrissette’s lawyers argued that the group he associated with was not a criminal enterprise and could not be characterized as a gang. They cast doubt on the integrity of prosecution witnesses, some of whom were also gang members who had lied in past statements about the case.

Morrissette, who smiled broadly after the verdict, apologized in an unsworn statement for “whatever happened to Sergeant Johnson” but made no effort to disassociate himself from the Gangster Disciples.

Cockrell said she plans to attend the trial of former Airman Rico Williams, the alleged leader of the Kaiserslautern branch of the Gangster Disciples, who is charged with second-degree murder in relation to his involvement in Johnson’s death.

Young men should get a briefing on gang activity when they join the military, she said.

“I can’t believe what was in the mind of my son when he thought about joining this gang. This was not the guy I sent to the military,” she said.

“I’d warn mothers to tell their kids. They not only have to worry about the enemy at large. They have to worry about the enemy within,” she said.

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=61005

Verdict in gang-initiation death trial angers victim’s mother

Filed under: gang member, gangster disciples, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 11:45 am

Seth Robson / Stripes
Pvt. Bobby Morrissette, right, waits for the verdict during his court-martial Thursday at Vilseck, Germany.

VILSECK, Germany — Pvt. Bobby Morrissette’s acquittal on a voluntary manslaughter charge for his role in the 2005 gang initiation beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson makes a mockery of claims the Army is tough on gangs, the dead soldier’s mother said Thursday.

Johnson was badly beaten in a Gangster Disciples initiation, known as a jumping-in ceremony, near Kaiserslautern on July 3, 2005. He was found dead in his barracks room the next day.

Stephanie Cockrell reacted angrily Thursday after the military judge, Col. Timothy Grammel, announced his ruling in her son’s death.

“I’m angry, and I’m outraged that we have gangs in the military,” she said. “The court system is sending a message that it’s OK.”

In additional to the voluntary manslaughter charge, Morrissette was also acquitted on a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.

Grammel did find Morrissette guilty of a number of other charges, including participating in gang initiation rituals, impeding an investigation, impeding a trial by court-martial and willfully disobeying a commissioned officer. He also was convicted of committing an indecent act on a female in the presence of another person and wrongful use of a controlled substance, both stemming from a separate incident.

Morrissette was sentenced to 42 months’ confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.

During the three-day trial, Cockrell and others listened to witnesses describe how up to nine gang members hit and kicked Johnson for six minutes during the initiation. She left the court in tears during testimony on his injuries, which were listed in an autopsy report.

Cockrell has attended six trials of alleged gang members involved in her son’s death.

“In my opinion, everybody who was there is equally culpable,” she said.

Those involved have shown no remorse and are still gang members, she said. During Morrissette’s court-martial, for example, one of the witnesses, Airman Nicholas Sims, flashed a gang sign and referred to Morrissette as “my brother,” she said.

“[The Gangster Disciples] talk about family. That’s not how they treated my son,” she said.

During the court-martial, prosecutors argued that the court needed to send a message that gangs in the military would not be tolerated.

“The military rank structure meant nothing to this gang. These gang members would unquestioningly follow the orders of their governor,” prosecution lawyer Greg O’Malley told the court.

Gang members sported Gangster Disciples tattoos, wore gang clothing and started fights with local nationals and members of other gangs in Kaiserslautern, he said.

However, Morrissette’s lawyers argued that the group he associated with was not a criminal enterprise and could not be characterized as a gang. They cast doubt on the integrity of prosecution witnesses, some of whom were also gang members who had lied in past statements about the case.

Morrissette, who smiled broadly after the verdict, apologized in an unsworn statement for “whatever happened to Sergeant Johnson” but made no effort to disassociate himself from the Gangster Disciples.

Cockrell said she plans to attend the trial of former Airman Rico Williams, the alleged leader of the Kaiserslautern branch of the Gangster Disciples, who is charged with second-degree murder in relation to his involvement in Johnson’s death.

Young men should get a briefing on gang activity when they join the military, she said.

“I can’t believe what was in the mind of my son when he thought about joining this gang. This was not the guy I sent to the military,” she said.

“I’d warn mothers to tell their kids. They not only have to worry about the enemy at large. They have to worry about the enemy within,” she said.

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=61005

February 26, 2009

Prosecutor: GI returned from Iraq in gang

Filed under: gang member, gangs in the military, gangster disciples, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 11:56 am

VILSECK, Germany — A soldier charged in the 2005 gang initiation beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson returned from an Iraq deployment as a member of the Gangster Disciples, Army prosecutors said during Pvt. Bobby Morrissette’s court-martial Tuesday.

Morrissette — one of seven servicemembers accused in Johnson’s death — is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter; conspiracy to commit aggravated assault; conduct contrary to good order and discipline; obstruction of justice, disobeying an order, indecent acts and use of a controlled substance.

Johnson died of multiple blunt force injuries on July 4, 2005, after an alleged initiation ceremony, which took place at a gazebo in a small town near Kaiserslautern.

Similar charges against Morrissette relating to Johnson’s death were withdrawn and dismissed in June 2007 because of legal concerns. The Army refiled charges against Morrissette in June 2008.

At Tuesday’s trial, government prosecutor Capt. Derrick Grace told the court that the evidence would show that Morrissette returned from Iraq as a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang.

Grace presented the court with photographs that, he said, show Gangster Disciples’ graffiti in the barracks building that Morrissette occupied at Camp Speicher, in Tikrit, when his unit — the 66th Transportation Company — was deployed there from 2004 to 2005.

Sgt. Ronald Barnhart, a former member of the 66th who lived in the same barracks as Morrissette in Iraq, told the court he saw several soldiers beating Sgt. Rodney Howell in a latrine at Camp Speicher in April 2004. Howell, who is serving six years’ confinement for his role in Johnson’s death, was jogging on the spot and grunting each time he was hit, Barnhart said.

“I took it as horseplay and walked out of the room,” he said.

Another soldier stationed at Camp Speicher at that time, Sgt. John Koerner, described walking in on the same beating.

“There were six people in a circle. I saw a punch thrown,” he said.

Another member of the gang, Air Force Staff Sgt. Themitrios Saroglou, told the court that he was treasurer of the Kaiserslautern branch of the Gangster Disciples at the time of Johnson’s death.

Saroglou said he joined the gang in 2004, after surviving his own jumping-in ceremony.

At the time members did not refer to themselves as the Gangster Disciples, although they participated in the gang’s rituals, such as the jumping-in ceremony, which involved members beating an initiate for six minutes inside a six pointed star marked with candles, he said.

The temperament of the gang changed after Morrissette’s unit returned to Germany from Iraq in 2005, Saroglou said.

“After the guys came back from deployment … that’s when they started calling it the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ ” he said.

The gang became more violent, he said.

“We called the gang members who came back from Iraq the ‘Young ‘Uns’. Their behavior was rowdy. They would act without thinking. The entire organization just went more negative. Drugs were used frequently. Fights would start from people looking at each other wrong or flashing gang signs,” he said.

“They would say things like: ‘Aw hell no. Get up, Get the [expletive] up,’ ” Saroglou said, adding that Morrissette hit and kicked Johnson many times during the ceremony.

If convicted, Morrissette faces up to 55 years’ confinement, a dishonorable discharge, reduction to private and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. The trial was scheduled to continue Wednesday.

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=60972

Prosecutor: GI returned from Iraq in gang

Filed under: gang member, gangs in the military, gangster disciples, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 11:56 am

VILSECK, Germany — A soldier charged in the 2005 gang initiation beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson returned from an Iraq deployment as a member of the Gangster Disciples, Army prosecutors said during Pvt. Bobby Morrissette’s court-martial Tuesday.

Morrissette — one of seven servicemembers accused in Johnson’s death — is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter; conspiracy to commit aggravated assault; conduct contrary to good order and discipline; obstruction of justice, disobeying an order, indecent acts and use of a controlled substance.

Johnson died of multiple blunt force injuries on July 4, 2005, after an alleged initiation ceremony, which took place at a gazebo in a small town near Kaiserslautern.

Similar charges against Morrissette relating to Johnson’s death were withdrawn and dismissed in June 2007 because of legal concerns. The Army refiled charges against Morrissette in June 2008.

At Tuesday’s trial, government prosecutor Capt. Derrick Grace told the court that the evidence would show that Morrissette returned from Iraq as a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang.

Grace presented the court with photographs that, he said, show Gangster Disciples’ graffiti in the barracks building that Morrissette occupied at Camp Speicher, in Tikrit, when his unit — the 66th Transportation Company — was deployed there from 2004 to 2005.

Sgt. Ronald Barnhart, a former member of the 66th who lived in the same barracks as Morrissette in Iraq, told the court he saw several soldiers beating Sgt. Rodney Howell in a latrine at Camp Speicher in April 2004. Howell, who is serving six years’ confinement for his role in Johnson’s death, was jogging on the spot and grunting each time he was hit, Barnhart said.

“I took it as horseplay and walked out of the room,” he said.

Another soldier stationed at Camp Speicher at that time, Sgt. John Koerner, described walking in on the same beating.

“There were six people in a circle. I saw a punch thrown,” he said.

Another member of the gang, Air Force Staff Sgt. Themitrios Saroglou, told the court that he was treasurer of the Kaiserslautern branch of the Gangster Disciples at the time of Johnson’s death.

Saroglou said he joined the gang in 2004, after surviving his own jumping-in ceremony.

At the time members did not refer to themselves as the Gangster Disciples, although they participated in the gang’s rituals, such as the jumping-in ceremony, which involved members beating an initiate for six minutes inside a six pointed star marked with candles, he said.

The temperament of the gang changed after Morrissette’s unit returned to Germany from Iraq in 2005, Saroglou said.

“After the guys came back from deployment … that’s when they started calling it the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ ” he said.

The gang became more violent, he said.

“We called the gang members who came back from Iraq the ‘Young ‘Uns’. Their behavior was rowdy. They would act without thinking. The entire organization just went more negative. Drugs were used frequently. Fights would start from people looking at each other wrong or flashing gang signs,” he said.

“They would say things like: ‘Aw hell no. Get up, Get the [expletive] up,’ ” Saroglou said, adding that Morrissette hit and kicked Johnson many times during the ceremony.

If convicted, Morrissette faces up to 55 years’ confinement, a dishonorable discharge, reduction to private and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. The trial was scheduled to continue Wednesday.

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=60972

January 18, 2009

Airman’s court-martial under way in 2005 death tied to gang beating

Filed under: gangs, gangs in the military, gangster disciples, germany, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 7:40 pm
BY AMY SCHLESING

An airman at Little Rock Air Force Base is accused of involuntary manslaughter as one of at least eight suspects who investigators say fatally beat an Army sergeant in 2005 during a gang initiation at a U.S. military base in Germany.

Staff Sgt. Jerome A. Jones, 25, faces an array of charges in a court-martial at the base stemming from the death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson at Kaiserslaughtern, Germany. Jones, the other suspects and Johnson were stationed there at the time.

Jones’ court-martial is being held in Arkansas because it is his current duty station. The Air Force in September 2005 transferred him to the base in Jacksonville, where he has continued to work as a C-130 cargo plane crew chief with the 314th Airlift Wing.

In October, Jones was charged with six violations of military law as specified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice; some include multiple counts. In addition to involuntary manslaughter, the charges include three counts of conspiracy, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of wrongful use or possession of a controlled substance, one count of failure to obey an order or regulation and one count of being an accessory after the fact.

Late Thursday, Jones stood before the court and pleaded innocent after two days of arguments in which his defense team sought to have the charges reduced or the case dismissed.

The day ended with opening statements. Testimony continued Saturday and is scheduled to resume Monday.

The case centers on two main questions: whether Jones participated in the beating in an initiation ritual that prosecutors believe led to Johnson’s death; and whether the initiation was into a violent gang or a nebulous group.

Capt. Peter Kezar, one of three prosecutors in the case, opened his arguments Thursday by describing a gang initiation ritual used by the street gang known as the Gangster Disciples – called a “jump-in,” in which each new member must endure a six-minute beating. He described it as escalating that night from “reckless” to a “free-for-all.”

Reports say the beating happened in a park pavilion in the woods outside Kaiserslaughtern. Johnson was alive when the group helped him back to his Army barracks at Kleber Kaserne, where he was stationed with the Army’s 66th Transportation Company, reports say. He was found dead in his room the next morning, July 4, 2005, slumped on the floor against a wall between his bed and desk.

“Each eyewitness will place the accused at that pavilion,” Kezar said, laying the groundwork against the defense team’s main argument that the witnesses are unreliable. “The government will not claim these witnesses are perfect people. … They all have their own reasons for testifying.”

Three other suspects in the case have been given prison sentences. Another suspect is headed to a court-martial in coming months. At least two suspects agreed to reduced punishment in a plea bargain in return for testifying against the others – including Jones.

Capt. Jeremy Emmert, one of Jones’ three defense attorneys, countered Kezar’s statement in his own opening before a lengthy list of witnesses began testifying Friday.

“[Staff] Sgt. Jones didn’t kill Sgt. Johnson,” he said. “Sgt. Jones doesn’t belong to a violent gang.” He said the government’s case against Jones relies on “self-preservation and stereotypes.”

What prosecutors call a gang was a “benign” group, Emmert said, “for brotherhood.”

“Each [government witness] has their own motive to lie about why they say Sgt. Jones was there,” he said, adding than he believed two witnesses were in collusion.

“And mere membership is not evidence beyond reasonable doubt,” he told the panel. “There is evidence that Sgt. Jones wasn’t there.”

The detail of charges against Jones claim that he was a member of the Gangster Disciples and was one of several military members who beat Johnson during his initiation that night. The charges further claim that he conspired with fellow gang members in the assault, that he impeded the investigation, and helped organize, raise money and recruit for the gang.

Belonging to a gang “that advocates the use of force or violence” is a violation of military law.

Court documents claim that Jones tried to persuade a witness not to testify, reporting that Jones said, “Make sure that you put the word out that everybody better shut up, don’t be talking and anybody that talks can cancel Christmas.”

Additional charges claim that he used marijuana and hindered the apprehension of a suspect by raising funds to help him hide. That suspect, believed to be a leader in the Kaiserslaughtern gang, has not been found.

The defense team made 13 pretrial motions in the week leading up to the court-martial, including requesting a mistrial based on claims that military investigators intimidated witnesses and asking for a reduction in charges, arguing that many are repetitive.

Judge Advocate General Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, the military judge presiding over the case, denied most of the motions. The charges stand as filed in October after Jones’ Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of an arraignment.

Maj. Conrad Huygen, a member of Jones’ defense team, also argued that additional security measures put in place outside the courtroom will cause prejudice among the jury members.

He said he believed it would have a “chilling effect” on the jury.

Every person entering the second floor of the building housing the base’s courtroom must go through a metal detector that was placed there specifically for the trial. Air Force security forces also scan everyone with hand-held detectors.

“I am satisfied that the measures being taken are necessary,” Paul said, adding that there have been threats against witnesses in this and other courts-martial related to the case.

Military courts-martial are separate from the civil court system. Any punishment is carried out under military code, confinement is in a military prison and the offenses are documented in a person’s military record rather than in the civilian criminal court system.

The witness list in Jones’ case is long and spans the globe.

A panel of 11 officers and enlisted airmen from the base was called for jury duty, and the opposing counsels spent most of Thursday vetting the members. Extensive questioning reduced the panel to five – three enlisted personnel and two officers. Unlike a civilian jury, members of the panel are allowed to question witnesses. The panel will determine guilt or innocence and determine a sentence if Jones is found guilty.

This trial also seeks to address whether the case is part of what is a growing trend in the U.S. military of gang involvement.

According to a 2006 report by U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division on gang-related activity, 104 suspected gang-related incidents and felony investigations were recorded from 2003 to 2006.

But the report also noted that the growth across the armed forces can be attributed to growing gang influence across the nation, not just in the military.

In 2006, gang-related crimes ranging from sexual assault to drug charges were reported at military bases in every theater of operation, from the United States to Europe and Iraq.

Asked about the situation at the air base in Jacksonville, a spokesman, Tech. Sgt. Kati Garcia, said, “Little Rock Air Force Base does not have a history of gang activity. It is fair to say that any gang involvement here is negligible at best.”

The U.S. military is a microcosm of society, she added.

“The positive and negative traits you see across the country are often mirrored in our military,” she said.

http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/249815/

Airman’s court-martial under way in 2005 death tied to gang beating

Filed under: gangs, gangs in the military, gangster disciples, germany, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 7:40 pm
BY AMY SCHLESING

An airman at Little Rock Air Force Base is accused of involuntary manslaughter as one of at least eight suspects who investigators say fatally beat an Army sergeant in 2005 during a gang initiation at a U.S. military base in Germany.

Staff Sgt. Jerome A. Jones, 25, faces an array of charges in a court-martial at the base stemming from the death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson at Kaiserslaughtern, Germany. Jones, the other suspects and Johnson were stationed there at the time.

Jones’ court-martial is being held in Arkansas because it is his current duty station. The Air Force in September 2005 transferred him to the base in Jacksonville, where he has continued to work as a C-130 cargo plane crew chief with the 314th Airlift Wing.

In October, Jones was charged with six violations of military law as specified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice; some include multiple counts. In addition to involuntary manslaughter, the charges include three counts of conspiracy, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of wrongful use or possession of a controlled substance, one count of failure to obey an order or regulation and one count of being an accessory after the fact.

Late Thursday, Jones stood before the court and pleaded innocent after two days of arguments in which his defense team sought to have the charges reduced or the case dismissed.

The day ended with opening statements. Testimony continued Saturday and is scheduled to resume Monday.

The case centers on two main questions: whether Jones participated in the beating in an initiation ritual that prosecutors believe led to Johnson’s death; and whether the initiation was into a violent gang or a nebulous group.

Capt. Peter Kezar, one of three prosecutors in the case, opened his arguments Thursday by describing a gang initiation ritual used by the street gang known as the Gangster Disciples – called a “jump-in,” in which each new member must endure a six-minute beating. He described it as escalating that night from “reckless” to a “free-for-all.”

Reports say the beating happened in a park pavilion in the woods outside Kaiserslaughtern. Johnson was alive when the group helped him back to his Army barracks at Kleber Kaserne, where he was stationed with the Army’s 66th Transportation Company, reports say. He was found dead in his room the next morning, July 4, 2005, slumped on the floor against a wall between his bed and desk.

“Each eyewitness will place the accused at that pavilion,” Kezar said, laying the groundwork against the defense team’s main argument that the witnesses are unreliable. “The government will not claim these witnesses are perfect people. … They all have their own reasons for testifying.”

Three other suspects in the case have been given prison sentences. Another suspect is headed to a court-martial in coming months. At least two suspects agreed to reduced punishment in a plea bargain in return for testifying against the others – including Jones.

Capt. Jeremy Emmert, one of Jones’ three defense attorneys, countered Kezar’s statement in his own opening before a lengthy list of witnesses began testifying Friday.

“[Staff] Sgt. Jones didn’t kill Sgt. Johnson,” he said. “Sgt. Jones doesn’t belong to a violent gang.” He said the government’s case against Jones relies on “self-preservation and stereotypes.”

What prosecutors call a gang was a “benign” group, Emmert said, “for brotherhood.”

“Each [government witness] has their own motive to lie about why they say Sgt. Jones was there,” he said, adding than he believed two witnesses were in collusion.

“And mere membership is not evidence beyond reasonable doubt,” he told the panel. “There is evidence that Sgt. Jones wasn’t there.”

The detail of charges against Jones claim that he was a member of the Gangster Disciples and was one of several military members who beat Johnson during his initiation that night. The charges further claim that he conspired with fellow gang members in the assault, that he impeded the investigation, and helped organize, raise money and recruit for the gang.

Belonging to a gang “that advocates the use of force or violence” is a violation of military law.

Court documents claim that Jones tried to persuade a witness not to testify, reporting that Jones said, “Make sure that you put the word out that everybody better shut up, don’t be talking and anybody that talks can cancel Christmas.”

Additional charges claim that he used marijuana and hindered the apprehension of a suspect by raising funds to help him hide. That suspect, believed to be a leader in the Kaiserslaughtern gang, has not been found.

The defense team made 13 pretrial motions in the week leading up to the court-martial, including requesting a mistrial based on claims that military investigators intimidated witnesses and asking for a reduction in charges, arguing that many are repetitive.

Judge Advocate General Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, the military judge presiding over the case, denied most of the motions. The charges stand as filed in October after Jones’ Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of an arraignment.

Maj. Conrad Huygen, a member of Jones’ defense team, also argued that additional security measures put in place outside the courtroom will cause prejudice among the jury members.

He said he believed it would have a “chilling effect” on the jury.

Every person entering the second floor of the building housing the base’s courtroom must go through a metal detector that was placed there specifically for the trial. Air Force security forces also scan everyone with hand-held detectors.

“I am satisfied that the measures being taken are necessary,” Paul said, adding that there have been threats against witnesses in this and other courts-martial related to the case.

Military courts-martial are separate from the civil court system. Any punishment is carried out under military code, confinement is in a military prison and the offenses are documented in a person’s military record rather than in the civilian criminal court system.

The witness list in Jones’ case is long and spans the globe.

A panel of 11 officers and enlisted airmen from the base was called for jury duty, and the opposing counsels spent most of Thursday vetting the members. Extensive questioning reduced the panel to five – three enlisted personnel and two officers. Unlike a civilian jury, members of the panel are allowed to question witnesses. The panel will determine guilt or innocence and determine a sentence if Jones is found guilty.

This trial also seeks to address whether the case is part of what is a growing trend in the U.S. military of gang involvement.

According to a 2006 report by U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division on gang-related activity, 104 suspected gang-related incidents and felony investigations were recorded from 2003 to 2006.

But the report also noted that the growth across the armed forces can be attributed to growing gang influence across the nation, not just in the military.

In 2006, gang-related crimes ranging from sexual assault to drug charges were reported at military bases in every theater of operation, from the United States to Europe and Iraq.

Asked about the situation at the air base in Jacksonville, a spokesman, Tech. Sgt. Kati Garcia, said, “Little Rock Air Force Base does not have a history of gang activity. It is fair to say that any gang involvement here is negligible at best.”

The U.S. military is a microcosm of society, she added.

“The positive and negative traits you see across the country are often mirrored in our military,” she said.

http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/249815/

May 24, 2008

Mother of sergeant fatally beaten in gang initiation takes aim at son’s killer, military

Filed under: gangs, gangs in the military, gangster disciples, germany, juwan johnson, murder — carterfsmith @ 4:11 pm

Saturday, May 24, 2008

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes European edition, Sunday, May 25, 2008 Steve Mraz / S&S

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Losing a child is like somebody stabbing you in the heart with an ice pick and leaving it in just so they can apply pressure. The ice pick is never ripped out of your heart, just constantly ripped at.

That’s how Stephanie Cockrell, the mother of a soldier beaten to death by fellow troops during a 2005 gang initiation, described the feeling of life without her only child, Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

During a court-martial last week for Airman Nicholas Sims, Cockrell told the court she is not proud her son joined a gang hours before his death on July 4, 2005. She wonders how she’ll tell her grandson about the identity of the father he will never meet.

The 28-year-old Sims — who has been in pretrial confinement for 162 days — was sentenced Friday to eight years’ confinement, dishonorable discharge and reduction to the lowest rank for his role in Johnson’s death. However, Sims will serve no more than six years’ jail time because of a pretrial agreement and credit for time already served. On Wednesday, Sims pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, disobeying an order by being a gang member and distribution of marijuana and Ecstasy.

On July 3, 2005, Sims was one of at least six Gangster Disciples who beat Johnson for six minutes during a gang initiation near Kaiserslautern, according to testimony. Two soldiers were convicted last year for their part in Johnson’s death. They were sentenced to 12 years’ and six years’ of confinement, respectively. A third soldier tried in 2007 was acquitted.

Sims’ court-martial, which initially was set to begin Monday, started Wednesday afternoon.
During roughly four hours of questioning Wednesday from the military judge, Air Force Col. Gordon Hammock, Sims detailed his participation in Johnson’s initiation.

Hammock repeatedly sought to determine why things got so out of hand on July 3, 2005.
“I have no idea as to why it escalated to the point that it did,” Sims told the judge. “It just got out of control.”

Sims, who trained as a boxer in his youth in Queens, N.Y., was asked several questions by Hammock about the ferocity of Johnson’s beating.

“You’re a strong guy,” Hammock said. “If you were on the receiving end of that (beating), how do you think you would have fared?”

Sims’ reply underscored the severity of what the 5-foot-3 Johnson went through.

“I don’t see how anybody could have made it out of that,” Sims said.

On Thursday evening, Cockrell took the stand to deliver testimony that captivated the courtroom and brought Sims to tears.

Cockrell talked of raising Johnson as a single mother in Baltimore. At times, the former drug addict and current counselor had courtroom spectators laughing. At times, Cockrell had the gallery crying. At times, Cockrell broke down.

The gang, in which Sims said he served as the second-highest-ranking member, fashioned itself as a family that would do anything for its members. Cockrell wondered where those family values were when gang members continued to punch and kick her son, even after he fell and could no longer stand during his initiation, she said.

Just like the other convicted gang members, Sims expressed regret for his actions on July 3, 2005, and what happened to Johnson. Cockrell wasn’t buying it Thursday night.

“Isn’t it funny,” she said. “None of them showed remorse until you bring them to justice.”
Twice Cockrell was asked if she had anything else she would like to say to the judge, Sims or the court.

She turned to Sims and then the judge.

“I say to you (Sims),” Cockrell said, “how could you beat [Johnson] when you didn’t even know him? I would say to the judge: At what point do we do something different to make sure this doesn’t happen in our military?”

In an intensely emotional moment, Cockrell addressed Sims a final time.

“I hope you feel some remorse for killing (Johnson) because at the end of the day that’s what you’ve done,” said Cockrell while sobbing. “You robbed me of not only my son but my best friend.”

Seated among his three lawyers, Sims uttered a tearful “I’m sorry.”

Sims quietly wept in his chair for minutes afterward.

© 2007 Stars and Stripes. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=55087

Mother of sergeant fatally beaten in gang initiation takes aim at son’s killer, military

Filed under: gangs, gangs in the military, gangster disciples, germany, juwan johnson, murder — carterfsmith @ 4:11 pm

Saturday, May 24, 2008

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes European edition, Sunday, May 25, 2008 Steve Mraz / S&S

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Losing a child is like somebody stabbing you in the heart with an ice pick and leaving it in just so they can apply pressure. The ice pick is never ripped out of your heart, just constantly ripped at.

That’s how Stephanie Cockrell, the mother of a soldier beaten to death by fellow troops during a 2005 gang initiation, described the feeling of life without her only child, Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

During a court-martial last week for Airman Nicholas Sims, Cockrell told the court she is not proud her son joined a gang hours before his death on July 4, 2005. She wonders how she’ll tell her grandson about the identity of the father he will never meet.

The 28-year-old Sims — who has been in pretrial confinement for 162 days — was sentenced Friday to eight years’ confinement, dishonorable discharge and reduction to the lowest rank for his role in Johnson’s death. However, Sims will serve no more than six years’ jail time because of a pretrial agreement and credit for time already served. On Wednesday, Sims pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, disobeying an order by being a gang member and distribution of marijuana and Ecstasy.

On July 3, 2005, Sims was one of at least six Gangster Disciples who beat Johnson for six minutes during a gang initiation near Kaiserslautern, according to testimony. Two soldiers were convicted last year for their part in Johnson’s death. They were sentenced to 12 years’ and six years’ of confinement, respectively. A third soldier tried in 2007 was acquitted.

Sims’ court-martial, which initially was set to begin Monday, started Wednesday afternoon.
During roughly four hours of questioning Wednesday from the military judge, Air Force Col. Gordon Hammock, Sims detailed his participation in Johnson’s initiation.

Hammock repeatedly sought to determine why things got so out of hand on July 3, 2005.
“I have no idea as to why it escalated to the point that it did,” Sims told the judge. “It just got out of control.”

Sims, who trained as a boxer in his youth in Queens, N.Y., was asked several questions by Hammock about the ferocity of Johnson’s beating.

“You’re a strong guy,” Hammock said. “If you were on the receiving end of that (beating), how do you think you would have fared?”

Sims’ reply underscored the severity of what the 5-foot-3 Johnson went through.

“I don’t see how anybody could have made it out of that,” Sims said.

On Thursday evening, Cockrell took the stand to deliver testimony that captivated the courtroom and brought Sims to tears.

Cockrell talked of raising Johnson as a single mother in Baltimore. At times, the former drug addict and current counselor had courtroom spectators laughing. At times, Cockrell had the gallery crying. At times, Cockrell broke down.

The gang, in which Sims said he served as the second-highest-ranking member, fashioned itself as a family that would do anything for its members. Cockrell wondered where those family values were when gang members continued to punch and kick her son, even after he fell and could no longer stand during his initiation, she said.

Just like the other convicted gang members, Sims expressed regret for his actions on July 3, 2005, and what happened to Johnson. Cockrell wasn’t buying it Thursday night.

“Isn’t it funny,” she said. “None of them showed remorse until you bring them to justice.”
Twice Cockrell was asked if she had anything else she would like to say to the judge, Sims or the court.

She turned to Sims and then the judge.

“I say to you (Sims),” Cockrell said, “how could you beat [Johnson] when you didn’t even know him? I would say to the judge: At what point do we do something different to make sure this doesn’t happen in our military?”

In an intensely emotional moment, Cockrell addressed Sims a final time.

“I hope you feel some remorse for killing (Johnson) because at the end of the day that’s what you’ve done,” said Cockrell while sobbing. “You robbed me of not only my son but my best friend.”

Seated among his three lawyers, Sims uttered a tearful “I’m sorry.”

Sims quietly wept in his chair for minutes afterward.

© 2007 Stars and Stripes. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=55087
Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.