Murder, Drugs and Conspiracy: USAO Indicts Seven Men on Five Years of Gang Violence

The US Attorney’s Office has charged seven DC men with a series of gang, weapons, drugs, and violent crimes reported to have taken place in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and the U Street corridor since 2006.

Among those crimes are three homicides, including that of Jamal Coates, who was killed while leaving a friend’s funeral in the U Street corridor last year.

The indictment, made public this week, alleges:

The defendants and their associates in G-Rod shared numerous common factors. They were residents of or otherwise associated with the turf and its environs. They were dedicated to reserving their turf to their exclusive use for criminal and or legitimate use and to avoid detection and successful prosecution by law enforcement. They were prepared to commit and did commit acts of intimidation, threats, violence, and obstruction of justice to exercise that control, avoid successful prosecution by law enforcement, and enhance the reputation of G-Rod for using intimidation, threats, and violence and thus facilitate G-Rod’s control of the turf.

Two of the suspects named in the indictment, Marcellus Jackson and Keir Johnson, remained at large Wednesday afternoon and are wanted by authorities, people close to the case told Homicide Watch.

Others are expected in court Friday for a status hearing with Judge Thomas Motley. At least two of the defendants are expected to be arraigned at the end of the month.

The 47-page indictment charges Lafonte L. Carlton, Robert Givens, Devyn L. Black, Ricardo D. Epps, Marcellus E. Jackson, Keir Johnson and Lester D. Williams with the shooting deaths of Paul Jones and Sean Robinson, in addition to Coates. It also charges them with seven non-fatal shootings, as well as various weapons, conspiracy and other charges.

Court records show that Lester Williams, 24, and Ricardo Epps, 22, were presented with the charges at DC Superior Court on Tuesday. They are in custody, according to jail records.

Lafonte Carlton, 21, and Robert Givens, 19, are also in custody. Carlton was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder in January 2009 and Givens was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in August 2010.

Jail records do not indicate that Devyn Black is in custody. Court records show that a notice of arraignment was mailed to him Wednesday.

The defendants—known by nicknames including Fonte, Fonny, Chop, Chopper, Flaca, Bunz, Hamburger, Cardo, Cool, Frank White, K, Ki, and Les—are believed to be members of a Columbia Heights crew known as “14th and Girard,” “1-4,” “G-Rod,” or “Cut Crew.

The indictment alleges that the crew is a “criminal street gang whose object was to control for it’s exclusive use, criminal and otherwise, the area centering on the 1400 block of Girard St. N.W. and the 1400 block of Fairmont St. N.W., and including the surrounding territory.”

In long-standing turf wars with rival crews, including “17th and Euclid” also known as “1-7,” and “Columbia Heights Village,” also known as “CHV” and “V,” members of G-Rod “did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate and agree together to threaten, assault, and kill anyone whose interests were contrary to those of the defendants and their associates.”

Among the crimes included in the indictment are:

  • First-degree murder while armed (premeditated) in connection with the Jan. 9, 2009, shooting death of Paul Jones in the 1300 block of Columbia Road NW. Jones was 17-years-old when he was killed. Jones was associated with the Columbia Heights Village crew and was “chased, shot, and killed” by Carlton, Black, Williams, and others, the indictment alleges. A second person, Theodore Rhem, was also shot during this attack and survived. MPD’s initial press release is here.
  • First-degree murder while armed (premeditated) in connection with the Aug. 11, 2010, shooting death of Sean Robinson. Two others, identified in the indictment as “TB” and “MW,” were wounded. Robinson was 19-years-old when he was killed. The indictment alleges that he was “associated with the area of 17th and Euclid Streets,” the territory of one of G-Rod’s rivals. Givens and an unknown person are alleged to have shot at Robinson and the others. Jackson is alleged to have driven the getaway car. MPD’s initial press release is here.
  • First-degree murder while armed (premeditated) in connection with the Sept. 28, 2010, shooting death of Jamal Coates. Coates was 21-years-old when he was shot at in the U Street corridor as he left the funeral of a friend, Ashley McRae. Two others, identified in the indictment as Phillip Thompkins and Mico Thompson, were also injured in this attack. All were considered to be members of the 17th and Euclid crew. Williams and Johnson are alleged to have fired the gunshots. Brandon Miller, who is not named as a suspect in this indictment, is alleged to have driven the getaway car. MPD’s initial press release is here.

A source familiar with the case said the investigation is still underway and additional crimes, including homicide, may be added to the indictment.

While descriptions in the indictment make it appear that the defendants were seriously concerned that members of their group were police informants, the government’s evidence into G-Rod’s alleged illegal activities appears to be built from details learned through recordings of jailhouse phone conversations and letters exchanged between the defendants.

Read the indictment below.

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