Gangfighters Weblog

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

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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 24, 2009

Airman convicted on lesser charge of assault

Filed under: airman, gang member, gangs in the military, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 12:37 am
The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jan 23, 2009 21:23:14 EST

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — An Air Force sergeant was acquitted Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of an Army sergeant outside a base in Germany, but convicted of a lesser offense of aggravated assault, Little Rock Air Force Base authorities said.

Staff Sgt. Jerome A. Jones, 25, was also convicted of several other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and acquitted of some, according to a news release from the LRAFB public affairs office.

Jones was sentenced later Friday to two years in prison, demotion to the rank of airman basic, and a dishonorable discharge, according to Tech. Sgt. Katherine Garcia, a spokeswoman for LRAFB.

Jones was charged in the July 4, 2005, beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson of Baltimore at a park pavilion in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where U.S. forces have a base. Prosecutors said the death was the result of a gang initiation.

Jones was a C-130 cargo plane crew chief with the 314th Airlift Wing at the Air Force base north of Little Rock.

He was acquitted of a charge accusing him of conspiring with members of a group called the Gangster Disciples to assault Johnson, and of another accusing him of being an accessory after the fact in Johnson’s death.

He was convicted of two other conspiracy charges, a charge accusing him of trying to influence witnesses, and one count each of wrongful use or possession of a controlled substance and failure to obey an order or regulation.

Garcia said guilty verdicts required guilty votes from four of the five court-martial members.

The sentence for Jones was decided in a penalty phase of the court-martial after the verdicts were rendered, Garcia said. She said Jones could have been sentenced to 17½ years in prison.

A prosecutor in the case, Capt. Peter Kezar, told the court that Jones took part in an initiation ritual used by the Gangster Disciples street gang, in which new members must endure a six-minute beating. Kezar said Johnson’s beating escalated from reckless to a free-for-all.

Capt. Jeremy Emmert, a defense lawyer, said Jones did not kill Johnson and does not belong to a violent gang. What prosecutors call a gang was a “benign” group for brotherhood, Emmert said. He also offered evidence that Jones was not at the park that night, and said government witnesses had their own motives to lie about “why they say Sergeant Jones was there.”

Others accused in Johnson’s beating are either serving sentences or facing courts-martial.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/01/airforce_arsoldierbeating012309/

Airman convicted on lesser charge of assault

Filed under: airman, gang member, gangs in the military, juwan johnson — carterfsmith @ 12:37 am
The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jan 23, 2009 21:23:14 EST

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — An Air Force sergeant was acquitted Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of an Army sergeant outside a base in Germany, but convicted of a lesser offense of aggravated assault, Little Rock Air Force Base authorities said.

Staff Sgt. Jerome A. Jones, 25, was also convicted of several other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and acquitted of some, according to a news release from the LRAFB public affairs office.

Jones was sentenced later Friday to two years in prison, demotion to the rank of airman basic, and a dishonorable discharge, according to Tech. Sgt. Katherine Garcia, a spokeswoman for LRAFB.

Jones was charged in the July 4, 2005, beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson of Baltimore at a park pavilion in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where U.S. forces have a base. Prosecutors said the death was the result of a gang initiation.

Jones was a C-130 cargo plane crew chief with the 314th Airlift Wing at the Air Force base north of Little Rock.

He was acquitted of a charge accusing him of conspiring with members of a group called the Gangster Disciples to assault Johnson, and of another accusing him of being an accessory after the fact in Johnson’s death.

He was convicted of two other conspiracy charges, a charge accusing him of trying to influence witnesses, and one count each of wrongful use or possession of a controlled substance and failure to obey an order or regulation.

Garcia said guilty verdicts required guilty votes from four of the five court-martial members.

The sentence for Jones was decided in a penalty phase of the court-martial after the verdicts were rendered, Garcia said. She said Jones could have been sentenced to 17½ years in prison.

A prosecutor in the case, Capt. Peter Kezar, told the court that Jones took part in an initiation ritual used by the Gangster Disciples street gang, in which new members must endure a six-minute beating. Kezar said Johnson’s beating escalated from reckless to a free-for-all.

Capt. Jeremy Emmert, a defense lawyer, said Jones did not kill Johnson and does not belong to a violent gang. What prosecutors call a gang was a “benign” group for brotherhood, Emmert said. He also offered evidence that Jones was not at the park that night, and said government witnesses had their own motives to lie about “why they say Sergeant Jones was there.”

Others accused in Johnson’s beating are either serving sentences or facing courts-martial.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/01/airforce_arsoldierbeating012309/

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/

October 31, 2008

I-Team Investigates Gangs In The Military

Filed under: air force, gang member, gangs in the military, juwan johnson, marines — carterfsmith @ 9:16 am

Response: Dept. Of Defense


10News I-Team Investigates Gangs In The Military

POSTED: 4:10 pm PDT October 30, 2008
UPDATED: 6:14 am PDT October 31, 2008

They endure grueling tests of strength, are trained to kill, and pledge their absolute loyalty.”Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Mara Salvatrucha, 18th street, all the big ones are in,” says Carter Smith, an Army veteran who spent 22 years in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.American street gangs have gone global, and increasingly, they’re in the service of Uncle Sam.”There are a lot of them out there, already in the ranks,” cautions Hunter Glass, a veteran and gang detective out of Nashville who now works as a consultant on gang behavior. The U.S. Air Force is among his clients.

Sailors, Marines, soldiers, even women, are flaunting their gang ties, while in uniform.”In the combat zone, they will support each other, but as soon as they are off the battle field, all bets are off,” says Glass.10News obtained video taken on base at Fort Bragg, which shows Bloods and Gangster Disciples on the dance floor. First they are throwing gang sings; then they throw punches.Glass spoke to the Army officer who took the video who was assaulted while taping it.”There is nothing glamorous about being a gang member, “Glass says. “It’s about money, it’s about profit.”He says gang members in the military have a sworn allegiance, not solely to the President of the United States, but to their gang set.

The initiations are brutal. 10News showed videotape of a jump-in, where gang members continuously beat a new recruit for six agonizing minutes. He has to take the beating. Once it’s over, the gangsters’ ritual includes a blessing over their newest member. Gangs in the military use the same initiation.

Carter Smith warns, “They’ll actually send people into the military to be recruiters in the military.”That’s what T.J. Leyden did while serving for 3 years as a Marine at Camp Pendleton. Reformed now, he was then a racist and a leader of a white power gang.”Everyone totally knew what I was doing,” says Leyden. “And I recruited 12 active members of the United States military to join a white supremacy group.”

It was a violent recruitment into a gang which cost Stephanie Cockrell her son, Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.”What did I do? What should I have done? What happened? What went wrong?” she still asks herself.Juwan Johnson grew up on the tough streets of Baltimore. His mother warned him over the years to say away from the gangsters hanging out on the corner. She never thought to repeat that warning when he joined the U.S. Army.”

There are gangs here in the streets,” she says. “But in the military? I was in the military, I don’t remember a gang in the military!”She spent five years in the Army herself, and thought the experience would be a good one for her son. Sgt. Johnson spent 6 years in the Army and served 18 months in Iraq. His mom still watches the home video she took of him during a brief visit home.”Thank you, and I love you all,” he says on camera to his large extended family, during a family picnic.He had only two weeks left in the service when offers to join a gang swayed him. So he ended up in a park outside a base in Germany, where his life would end as he was “jumped in” to the Gangster Disciples. They beat him to death. Eleven soldiers and airmen took part.”And after they beat him to death, they took him back to the barracks, and they went out to clubs to dance,” exclaims Cockrell, with disbelief.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a drain on the U.S. military, forcing relaxation of standards, “moral waivers”, to join. More service personnel have criminal records and gang ties than in years past.” My concern is when they get out,” adds Carter Smith.In the 1990’s, while working as an Army criminal intelligence officer, he was one of the first to uncover the growth of street gangs in the ranks. He says the general estimate is that about 1 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces are gang members, 13,000 to 14,000 of them, roughly the population of Solana Beach.”

They will have been trained to do lots of things from the basic support, logistics, and transportation, to the use of weapons,” he warns. According to the National Gang Intelligence Center and the Army Criminal Investigation Command, “Gang related activity in the U.S. military is increasing … posing a threat to law enforcement officials and national security.” The gang activity ranges from graffiti you can see in pictures from Iraq, to shootouts and murder much closer to home.”Crimes involving military soldiers have been on the rise, and violent crimes at that,” says Hunter Glass.In San Diego, an ex-Marine marksman, Nathanial Guillen, and active member of the Bloods, shot a rival gang member to death in La Mesa. He was found guilty of murder in 2006.In Northern California, a Camp Pendleton Marine and gang member named Andres Raya ambushed police with military tactics and a high power riffle, murdering police Sgt. Howard Stevenson. Raya was killed in the shoot out.

Those are only two examples.”They’re gang members at heart, they’re not going to be changing. It’s what they live for, what they believe,” says Glass.Officially, no branch of the service allows gangs. However, criminal courts are reducing felony charges to misdemeanors, allowing gangsters who promise to reform to join the military rather than go to prison.Glass adds, “Are they good in a fight? Yes that’s right, but when dog fighting becomes illegal, what do you do with the dogs?”

http://www.10news.com/news/17852021/detail.html

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-1664726990057276007&hl=en&fs=true

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=9126224303396571205&hl=en&fs=true

I-Team Investigates Gangs In The Military

Filed under: air force, gang member, gangs in the military, juwan johnson, marines — carterfsmith @ 9:16 am

Response: Dept. Of Defense



10News I-Team Investigates Gangs In The Military

POSTED: 4:10 pm PDT October 30, 2008
UPDATED: 6:14 am PDT October 31, 2008

They endure grueling tests of strength, are trained to kill, and pledge their absolute loyalty.”Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Mara Salvatrucha, 18th street, all the big ones are in,” says Carter Smith, an Army veteran who spent 22 years in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.American street gangs have gone global, and increasingly, they’re in the service of Uncle Sam.”There are a lot of them out there, already in the ranks,” cautions Hunter Glass, a veteran and gang detective out of Nashville who now works as a consultant on gang behavior. The U.S. Air Force is among his clients.

Sailors, Marines, soldiers, even women, are flaunting their gang ties, while in uniform.”In the combat zone, they will support each other, but as soon as they are off the battle field, all bets are off,” says Glass.10News obtained video taken on base at Fort Bragg, which shows Bloods and Gangster Disciples on the dance floor. First they are throwing gang sings; then they throw punches.Glass spoke to the Army officer who took the video who was assaulted while taping it.”There is nothing glamorous about being a gang member, “Glass says. “It’s about money, it’s about profit.”He says gang members in the military have a sworn allegiance, not solely to the President of the United States, but to their gang set.

The initiations are brutal. 10News showed videotape of a jump-in, where gang members continuously beat a new recruit for six agonizing minutes. He has to take the beating. Once it’s over, the gangsters’ ritual includes a blessing over their newest member. Gangs in the military use the same initiation.

Carter Smith warns, “They’ll actually send people into the military to be recruiters in the military.”That’s what T.J. Leyden did while serving for 3 years as a Marine at Camp Pendleton. Reformed now, he was then a racist and a leader of a white power gang.”Everyone totally knew what I was doing,” says Leyden. “And I recruited 12 active members of the United States military to join a white supremacy group.”

It was a violent recruitment into a gang which cost Stephanie Cockrell her son, Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.”What did I do? What should I have done? What happened? What went wrong?” she still asks herself.Juwan Johnson grew up on the tough streets of Baltimore. His mother warned him over the years to say away from the gangsters hanging out on the corner. She never thought to repeat that warning when he joined the U.S. Army.”

There are gangs here in the streets,” she says. “But in the military? I was in the military, I don’t remember a gang in the military!”She spent five years in the Army herself, and thought the experience would be a good one for her son. Sgt. Johnson spent 6 years in the Army and served 18 months in Iraq. His mom still watches the home video she took of him during a brief visit home.”Thank you, and I love you all,” he says on camera to his large extended family, during a family picnic.He had only two weeks left in the service when offers to join a gang swayed him. So he ended up in a park outside a base in Germany, where his life would end as he was “jumped in” to the Gangster Disciples. They beat him to death. Eleven soldiers and airmen took part.”And after they beat him to death, they took him back to the barracks, and they went out to clubs to dance,” exclaims Cockrell, with disbelief.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a drain on the U.S. military, forcing relaxation of standards, “moral waivers”, to join. More service personnel have criminal records and gang ties than in years past.” My concern is when they get out,” adds Carter Smith.In the 1990’s, while working as an Army criminal intelligence officer, he was one of the first to uncover the growth of street gangs in the ranks. He says the general estimate is that about 1 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces are gang members, 13,000 to 14,000 of them, roughly the population of Solana Beach.”

They will have been trained to do lots of things from the basic support, logistics, and transportation, to the use of weapons,” he warns. According to the National Gang Intelligence Center and the Army Criminal Investigation Command, “Gang related activity in the U.S. military is increasing … posing a threat to law enforcement officials and national security.” The gang activity ranges from graffiti you can see in pictures from Iraq, to shootouts and murder much closer to home.”Crimes involving military soldiers have been on the rise, and violent crimes at that,” says Hunter Glass.In San Diego, an ex-Marine marksman, Nathanial Guillen, and active member of the Bloods, shot a rival gang member to death in La Mesa. He was found guilty of murder in 2006.In Northern California, a Camp Pendleton Marine and gang member named Andres Raya ambushed police with military tactics and a high power riffle, murdering police Sgt. Howard Stevenson. Raya was killed in the shoot out.

Those are only two examples.”They’re gang members at heart, they’re not going to be changing. It’s what they live for, what they believe,” says Glass.Officially, no branch of the service allows gangs. However, criminal courts are reducing felony charges to misdemeanors, allowing gangsters who promise to reform to join the military rather than go to prison.Glass adds, “Are they good in a fight? Yes that’s right, but when dog fighting becomes illegal, what do you do with the dogs?”

http://www.10news.com/news/17852021/detail.html

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