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VOL. 131 | NO. 94 | Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gangster Disciples Case Alleges Attempted Murder, Threats

By Bill Dries

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When reputed members of street gangs are indicted on federal charges, the indictments are usually brief and technical.

A new gang racketeering case in Memphis federal court is the rare gang case that alleges violence as part of the racketeering. It’s part of a larger case against reputed members of the Gangster Disciples.

(Daily News/Andrew Breig)

They will allege that the accused had a firearm and was a felon and thus could not legally carry a gun. Or they will allege the defendant was dealing an amount of drugs that exceeds the threshold for federal charges.

There is usually little if any detail in the formal federal charges about violence. That is the turf of state prosecutors.

That changed this month as federal prosecutors in Memphis and Atlanta unveiled two sets of indictments against 48 reputed members of the Gangster Disciples street gang alleging violence as part of a racketeering conspiracy.

“The coordinated arrests of Gangster Disciples around the country today should send a message to all those intent on victimizing our communities through acts of violence and racketeering,” Acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Gerard J. Cocuzzo said last week. “We will relentlessly pursue those who terrorize our neighborhoods, whether in urban or rural areas; and today’s law enforcement actions demonstrate our commitment to this fight.”

The 48 people – 16 from Memphis and Jackson – are accused of participating in coordinated criminal activity, including drug trafficking, robbery, carjacking, extortion, wire fraud, credit card fraud, insurance fraud and bank fraud.

Four of the 16 Memphis area defendants are accused of seven counts of attempted murder in the aid of racketeering.

The overt acts listed in the Memphis indictment made public Wednesday allege 27 instances of violent acts or plans to commit violent acts. That doesn’t include seven recorded phone calls discussing plans.

Most of the 34 overt acts were from 2012-2015, although the Memphis indictment covers a 20-year period starting in 1996.

Byron Montrial Purdy and Derrick Kennedy Crumpton are identified in the indictment as governors or leaders of the Gangster Disciples in Tennessee who participated directly in the criminal acts alleged in the charges.

“Among their criminal activities were acts involving murder, kidnapping, assault, intimidation of witnesses and victims, narcotics distribution and weapons trafficking,” the indictment reads.

Crumpton appears to have been governor up to February 2015.

That’s when the overt acts begin listing Purdy as ordering violence by other Gangster Disciples.

In April 2015, Purdy and codefendant Demarcus Deon Crawford allegedly sent armed gang members to Chicago “for the expressed purpose of confronting Chicago’s Gangster Disciples leadership.”

The indictment’s narrative doesn’t offer any details of who went, if they went and what happened in Chicago.

But it coincides with an uptick in violence attributed by the Chicago Tribune to a factionalization and splintering within Chicago’s street gangs that reached its climax with the November 2015 murder of Tyshawn Lee, a 9-year-old boy.

Chicago police said he was lured from a park to an alley where he was killed because of his father’s gang ties.

Also last year, codefendant Robert Elliott Jones allegedly “declared Covington, Tennessee as ‘GD Land’ and issued a green light to a subordinate gang member to kill rival gang members located within Covington,” according to the Memphis indictment.

In most cases, Purdy and Crumpton were allegedly reacting to rival gang members who had shot, shot at or “disrespected” Gangster Disciples.

Four of those indicted allegedly “fired multiple rounds into a residence they believed housed several rival gang members with the expressed intent to kill those inside,” in June 2014.

The indictment doesn’t detail what happened in that or other incidents where threats were allegedly made or orders given to kill others.

Crumpton and three others allegedly “extorted money and drugs from a rival gang member as a condition for their ordering subordinate Gangster Disciples not to testify against the rival gang member” in January 2015.

The April 22 indictment in Memphis was unsealed last week with press conferences in Memphis and Atlanta.

It marks the first major drug case in the Western District of Tennessee by federal authorities to include charges alleging violence as part of racketeering since the 2008 indictment involving the drug organization of Craig Petties.

Petties and others were accused and convicted or pleaded guilty to charges that included the murders of six people in the largest drug case ever tried in Memphis federal court.

Petties and those in his organization, whose base of operations across several states was the Riverside section of southwest Memphis, were also Gangster Disciples.

But the set of seven indictments from 2002 to 2008 against Petties and eight others that mentioned 40 people – charged and uncharged – did not emphasize specific gang-related activity beyond saying Petties and the others were all Gangster Disciples.

The six murders that were part of the Petties case were described as acts against competing drug dealers, those who stole drugs from the organization and those who were suspected of cooperating with federal prosecutors.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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