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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.”