Tag Archives: hobos

Facing life in prison, the Hobos ask for a new trial

Paris Poe | Illinois Department of Corrections

(CHICAGO) Keith Daniels’ girlfriend told jurors she saw only one shooter the night Daniels was executed in front of his family for snitching on Chicago’s so-called “super gang,” the Hobos.

The ambush began when Daniels and his family returned home from dinner in Dolton in April 2013. A masked gunman stepped out from behind a shrub and fired at a car carrying Daniels, Shanice Peatry and their two small children. Last January, a federal jury decided that masked man was Paris “Poleroski” Poe, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

But Poe’s lawyers now say bullets flew in opposite directions that night, leaving holes in the windshield and in the back of Daniels’ car. Authorities found .40 and .45 caliber shell casings at the scene.

“There were clearly two shooters involved in Daniels’ murder,” Patrick Blegen, one of Poe’s attorneys, wrote.

The lawyer made the claim amid a bid by Poe and five other Hobo leaders to undo their sweeping racketeering conspiracy conviction early this year at the end of a roughly four-month trial. The six men asked a judge late last week to order a new trial — or even acquit them — despite the jury’s verdict. It’s a routine request ahead of the Hobos’ sentencing, which is set for June 23.

The defense lawyers continued to question in their filings whether the Hobos street gang even existed, at least in the way federal prosecutors have argued. They tried to poke holes in the investigation that led to the gang leaders’ indictment, and they complained that prosecutors relied on testimony from “pathological and prodigious” liars.

“The evidence showed a variety of unconnected participants involved in a series of unrelated criminal activity over a significant period of time operating with no ongoing organization, continuing unit, structure, or common purpose,” Molly Armour, a lawyer for Arnold “Armstrong” Council, 40, wrote.

The feds have called the Hobos an “all-star team of the worst of the worst” of Chicago’s street gangs, which rose out of the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes. It terrorized the South and West sides for roughly a decade. The six men, including Hobos leader Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester, 40, were found guilty of a conspiracy that included five murders.

Four of the six men face a mandatory life sentence. Last month, U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. gave two simultaneous life sentences to a seventh Hobo, Byron “B-Rupt” Brown, who had been tied to five additional deaths.

Prosecutors have previously acknowledged that an unnamed accomplice helped Poe, 37, murder Daniels. They wrote in one court filing that “Keith Daniels was murdered by two individuals who used handguns then fled in a Chevy Trailblazer.” Peatry, the key witness to the killing, testified during the trial that she saw only one shooter, though she acknowledged a second person was in a getaway car.

During her testimony, Peatry identified Poe as Daniels’ killer. But Blegen has questioned her ability to recognize the masked man.

Blegen also pointed to two men who tried to get Daniels to run their drug line on the west side who had greater reason to fear Daniels’ testimony and may have wanted him gone. The day Daniels was killed, he was warned by text about two people “out west” who wanted to kill him.

The feds say Poe cut off an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet to hunt down and execute Daniels, a man who had been cooperating for years with the FBI. That “made little sense” to Blegen, according to his court filing. Poe knew that his ankle monitor could track only whether he was “in range” of his home, Blegen wrote.

The bracelet did not have GPS, Blegen wrote, and Poe had permission to leave home for several hours a day for work.

“Thus, had Poe wanted cover for a murder, he would have kept his monitor on,” Blegen wrote. “Cutting it off simply attracted law enforcement’s attention.”

— Chicago Sun-Times

Judge delays sentencing for Hobos member groggy from meds

(CHICAGO) The near-certain prospect of spending the rest of his life in federal prison was weighing on Byron “B-Rupt” Brown on Tuesday, so he doubled down on his anti-anxiety medication before his trip to the downtown federal courthouse.

But it turned out the extra meds only prolonged Brown’s anxiety, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. Brown was still slurring and slightly unsteady on his feet as he stood in front of U.S. District Judge James Tharp Jr. six hours after taking the medication, so the judge postponed the sentencing a week despite protests from Brown and his attorney, Gregory Mitchell.

“This is going to be perhaps the most significant day in Mr. Brown’s life,” Tharp said. “I want to understand that he knows what is going on.”

Brown told the judge he took the medication because he was worried about keeping his cool in the courtroom.

“I didn’t want to be overactive,” he said. “I wanted to be as presentable as possible to calm myself. I have these outburst, these tantrums, sometimes.”

In the end, Brown stayed calm.

“I’m focused enough to go on,” Brown said softly, and in vain, to the judge, just before a marshal placed his hand on his shoulder and led him out of the courtroom.

It probably did not help that Brown has claimed to have misunderstood instructions he received in Tharp’s courtroom on the day he signed his plea deal.

In 2014, Brown was one of the first Hobos members to cut a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to a deal that spared him from a potential death sentence in exchange for his cooperation against other gang members. In 2015, he tried to withdraw his guilty plea and said he’d lied to the grand jury and did not want to take the witness stand at trial.

Tharp wouldn’t let Brown out of the deal, pointing out that Brown had been asked repeatedly in court if he was coerced or threatened into taking the plea deal at a court hearing in 2014.

Brown’s claim that he lied to the grand jury led to a flurry of motions by his co-defendants and triggered a clause in his deal that will all but certainly land Brown a mandatory life sentence. Had he kept his end of the deal, Brown, 32, would have received a 35- to 45-year federal sentence. Brown already is serving 25 years on murder charges in state court.

Six of Brown’s former co-defendants were convicted in December after a 15-week trial that did not include any appearances from Brown on the witness stand. Prosecutors linked the Hobos to eight murders and multiple shootings and robberies on the gang’s turf on Chicago’s South Side.

In his plea agreement, Brown admitted to being the triggerman in three killings: the 2007 execution of Eddie Moss, a semi-pro basketball player Brown mistook for a rival gang member, and Kenneth Mosby and the Daniel Dupree, whom Brown shot and killed less than a week apart in May 2009. Brown also said he was present at two other Hobo slayings.

Mitchell, who was appointed to represent Brown after Brown split with the lawyers who negotiated his plea agreement, said Brown had hoped to get his sentencing over with.

“He’s a thoughtful person, and he’s been thinking about this case a lot for a long time,” Mitchell said. “He’s not being flippant here. He’s very remorseful.”

Alleged leader of Hobos gang takes the stand

(CHICAGO) The man with the nickname “Bowlegs” slowly walked to the witness stand, faced a federal judge and raised his right hand, teh Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Then Gregory Chester — the alleged head of Chicago’s Hobos “super gang” — kicked off his dramatic surprise testimony Wednesday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where prosecutors have been putting Chester and five other accused gang leaders on trial for more than 12 weeks.

Dressed in a dark suit and a maroon tie, Chester listened to defense attorney Beau Brindley ask if Chester was “the leader of a group they called ‘the Hobos?’ ” Chester leaned toward the microphone and said, “No I am not.”

Then Chester went further, testifying that the Hobos street gang never even existed.

Chester said the word “Hobo” referred to a murdered friend from the now-demolished Robert Taylor housing project where he grew up. He also ridiculed the idea that a handicapped person could lead a street gang. Chester said he has a bone disease that “causes my legs to go bow” and prevents him from moving quickly.

“A crippled gang leader?” Chester said. “I mean, no sir.”

By taking the stand, Chester has now exposed himself to cross-examination by prosecutors intimately familiar with the evidence against him and the other alleged Hobos. Chester testified for about 90 minutes on Wednesday, and he will continue Thursday morning. However, to accommodate other witnesses, Chester’s cross-examination may not begin until next week.

Federal prosecutors who are putting Chester and others on trial for racketeering have tied the Hobos street gang to nine murders and several other crimes. Authorities have described the gang as a conglomerate or “all-star team of the worst of the worst” of Chicago’s street gangs. Chester has been identified as “the undisputed leader of the Hobos.”

Among the Hobos’ alleged murders was the April 14, 2013, execution of FBI informant Keith Daniels. The feds say Daniels was executed for cooperating with authorities against the gang. Before he died, Daniels told a federal grand jury that, “I understood that ‘Bowlegs’ was the leader of the Hobos,” referring to Chester by his nickname.

Chester, 39, said he grew up in a housing project where “only the strong survive.” Faced with nicknames like “Pops” for moving too slow, Chester said he made alliances with members of multiple gangs. However, he said he grew up in a building controlled by the Gangster Disciples and was primarily affiliated with that group.

That project is where he said he had a friend named Antwan Howard, who was robbed and killed on July 3, 2000. Chester said Howard’s nickname was “Hobo,” and “he was like the Michael Jordan of our neighborhood.” After Howard was killed, Chester said he had Howard’s nickname tattooed on his right arm.

That tattoo also features hands holding a bag of money and a revolver, images of the Robert Taylor homes, and the words “The Earth Is Our Turf.” Chester testified that it was all symbolic of Howard, his life and his death. “The Earth Is Our Turf” was a popular rap song written by Howard, Chester said.

“Hobo is not a gang,” Chester testified.

Finally, Chester admitted he sold large quantities of heroin — $80 a gram and no less than 50 grams at a time — and he even said he sold drugs to Daniels, the FBI informant. But he said he never shared that money with his co-defendants in the racketeering trial.

And he said he made enough money that “I never needed to rob no one.”

— Chicago Sun-Times

Hobos cousin testifies for defense, faces off with prosecutor

(CHICAGO) A cousin of alleged Hobos leader Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester took the witness stand Tuesday as Chester and five other allegedly high-ranking gang members set out to defend themselves in a federal racketeering trial that has already lasted 12 weeks.

But Walter Binion, a former Black Disciple, then found himself eye-to-eye with a federal prosecutor years after dodging a grand jury subpoena, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The feds rested their case Monday against Chester and the other alleged Hobo leaders who have been connected to nine murders and a 10-year wave of terror on the South and West sides. The six defendants are now laying out their defense. They are accused of leading a gang described by authorities as a conglomerate, or an “all-star team of the worst of the worst” of Chicago’s street gangs.

Chester has been named by the feds as the gang’s undisputed leader. But Tuesday, Binion testified that he saw Chester “daily” between 2007 and 2011 and never knew him to even be a member of the Hobos. Binion also said the term “Hobo” actually referred to a deceased friend of Chester.

Binion said Chester spent two months in a hospital — half of it unconscious — after being shot in 2007. That meant he would have been largely incapacitated around the time of a war between the Hobos’ Dirty Low faction and the Fifth Ward Black Disciples and New Town Black Disciples. Binion also testified that he was handcuffed to a rail at the Homan Square police facility, where he said he was taken against his will, after authorities stopped him and Chester in October 2008.

However, Binion’s memory turned foggy when he was cross-examined by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski. He acknowledged that he dodged a grand jury subpoena in 2013, but he struggled to remember exactly how he met other high-ranking Hobos on trial, including Arnold Council, Paris Poe, Gabriel Bush and William Ford.

Binion testified that he never met FBI informant Keith Daniels but saw Chester meet with him once. Daniels was gunned down in April 2013, allegedly for cooperating with the feds against the Hobos.

Finally, Binion testified emphatically that he never sent money to another one of his imprisoned cousins, Gary Chester, who was sentenced to 12 years in 2015 for his role with the Hobos.

That prompted Otlewski to remind Binion that jails and prisons “keep records.”

Opening statements finally set to begin in Hobo trial

(CHICAGO) After roughly a week of jury selection, opening statements are expected to begin Wednesday in the trial of Chicago’s so-called “super gang,” the Hobos.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys may need more than four hours to lay out the case for jurors, who should settle in for months of testimony about brazen violence, torture and murder on Chicago’s South and West sides. The racketeering trial is taking place in the 14th-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The feds have tied six alleged Hobo gang members to nine murders, including the executions of Chicago Police informant Wilbert Moore and FBI informant Keith Daniels — the brother of one of the alleged gang members on trial. The Hobos’ violence spanned nearly a decade, from 2004 to 2013.

Prosectors believe Daniels was murdered to keep him from testifying, but the judge has ruled Daniels may speak from the grave through grand jury testimony offered before his death.

It’s not clear if prosecutors will have time to call their first witness Wednesday. But if they do, they’ve said it will be Nicholas Roti, the former chief of the organized crime bureau for the Chicago Police Department.

Prosecutors want Roti to testify as an expert about Chicago street gangs. But defense attorneys hope to attack him on cross-examination over his ties to the controversial police facility at Homan Square and allegations that he participated in retaliation against two officers who helped the feds prosecute corrupt Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski is expected to kick things off Wednesday with a 90-minute presentation on behalf of the government. The federal prosecutor has been known to cite Chicago’s notorious violence in his arguments, and this latest trial is taking place amid heightened concern over the city’s soaring murder numbers.

During the sentencing of Hobo gang member Gary Chester in May 2015, Otlewski cited the title of the upcoming Spike Lee film and said, “This is Chicago. It’s not ‘Chiraq.’”

The feds say Chester’s cousin, Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester, was the Hobos’ undisputed leader, and he is among the six alleged Hobos going to trial this week. So is Paris “Poleroski” Poe, allegedly a ruthless assassin for the gang.

Security is tight in Tharp’s courtroom. After walking through a metal detector in the courthouse lobby, spectators can expect to walk through another one before entering the courtroom. U.S. marshals are also watching the courtroom closely. Tharp has so far declined to shackle the Hobos during the trial, but jurors have remained anonymous.

Authorities say the Hobos are a collection of Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and others — a “renegade group” or “conglomerate.” Its core members built a base of operations out of the Robert Taylor public housing project, records show.

The gang members allegedly referred to each other as “Hobo,” and federal prison officials even once found a handmade “Happy Birthday Ho-Bo” card in the locker of inmate Stanley “Smiley” Vaughn, who has already admitted his role in the gang.

The gang’s fleet of automobiles included Dodge Chargers, Range Rovers and Cadillac Escalades. But Poe held on to an old-school Chevy Impala with the word “Hobo” stitched into the headrest.

The “Hobo” name is also tattooed on the skin of the gang’s alleged leaders, along with the words “The Earth Is Our Turf.”

Threats loom over gang trial; U.S. marshals want Hobos shackled

(CHICAGO) Security threats looming over an impending street-gang trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse have prompted U.S. marshals to ask a judge to take the rare step of shackling alleged gang members during their trial.

Among authorities’ concerns are threats that have allegedly been made toward people under U.S. Marshals Service protection in connection with the case, a marshal supervisor told a judge Tuesday. Ken Robinson said the matter is under investigation, and he wouldn’t elaborate in open court, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Seven members of the Hobos street gang, a so-called “super gang” conglomerate of Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and others, are set to go on trial for a racketeering conspiracy next week in the 14th-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge John Tharp. The feds have tied the gang to at least nine murders and other acts of violence, including the torture of two South Side brothers with an iron.

The trial could last months.

Among the slayings are the 2013 assassination of Keith Daniels, a federal informant allegedly gunned down by Paris Poe, and the 2006 shooting of police informant Wilbert Moore, who was allegedly killed by Poe and Arnold Council. The murders have left federal prosecutors worried about the safety of other witnesses during and after the trial.

Robinson said Tuesday the alleged Hobos should be shackled during the trial because of the charges they face and their disciplinary history while in federal custody. He also told Tharp the marshals won’t have the manpower necessary to simultaneously supervise the alleged gang members and people in the gallery.

“What we cannot account for is the associates that may attend the trial on a daily basis,” Robinson said.

If shackled, the men would wear leg irons covered in duct tape so jurors wouldn’t hear them clinking while the men walk. A skirt would be added to the defense table in Tharp’s courtroom so jurors couldn’t see the shackles, Robinson told the judge.

Tharp has already ruled once in favor of shackles, records show. But defense attorneys asked him to reconsider, arguing “none of these defendants has a history of attacking guards or being disruptive in court.” Steve Greenberg, who represents an alleged Hobo named William Ford, told the judge Tuesday that such a move would be “terribly cruel.”

Federal prosecutors have also persuaded Tharp to select anonymous jurors for the trial, records show, a move typically made in mob or terrorism cases. But Tharp made no ruling on the shackles Tuesday, telling lawyers simply, “this situation will be resolved before the beginning of trial,” which starts Sept. 6.

Meanwhile, federal authorities have restricted access to a courtyard on the east side of the courthouse “to ensure the safety and security of all judges, employees, jurors and visitors to the courthouse.” They announced the move last week but will not say what prompted it.

© Copyright 2016 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved.