Prosecutors and defense counsel in the “21st and Vietnam” murder trial have concluded closing arguments and the case now rests in the hands of the jury, who began deliberations around noon Tuesday.
During the trial, which lasted nearly two months, prosecutors argued that Anthony Hatton, Jekwan Smith, Johnnie Harris and Stanley Moghalu were members of a crew called “21st and Vietnam” that “turned [their] neighborhood into a battleground.” Prosecutors allege that the four men are linked by loyalty and are responsible for the shooting deaths of Tyrell Fogle, Isaiah Sheffield, and Steven Moore.
Defense counsel for the men argued, though, that the defendants are not members of “21st and Vietnam,” and that the government’s case is filled with insufficient evidence and false identifications.
Hatton, Harris, Smith and Moghalu are charged with 21 criminal counts including conspiracy, first-degree murder, obstruction of justice, assault and weapons charges related to the 2011 shooting deaths of Fogle, Sheffield and Moore.
Tyrell Fogle, 17, was shot and killed Aug. 29, 2011, in the 1900 block of Bennett Place Northeast. Prosecutors believe Hatton killed Fogle because of his affiliation with a rival crew called “E Street.”
Delrico Shuford, a self-professed member of “21st and Vietnam,” testified that Hatton shot Fogle after hearing about an argument between Shuford and Fogle’s friend. According to Shuford, Hatton wanted to find the guy and ran toward Bennett Place NE carrying a 9mm Beretta and a ski mask. At the intersection of 21st and Bennett Place, Hatton found Fogle riding his bike and fired 10 or 11 shots before Fogle could jump off, Shuford told the court.
Less than one month later, 24-year-old Isaiah Sheffield was shot and killed in the 1100 block of 21st Street Northeast. Prosecutors believe he was also killed because of his affiliation with “E Street.”
Daphne Featherstone testified that she was helping her daughter move to the 1100 block of 21st Street on Sept. 23, 2011, when she heard gunshots. As she watched her daughter’s belongings in a parked U-Haul, Featherstone saw a young man ride his bike up 21st Street from Maryland Avenue. Suddenly, a group of five to seven males started shooting at the young man hitting him with “20-30 bullets,” Featherstone testified. Featherstone said she could not identify any of the shooters, but she described one as having “shoulder length dreadlocks with his hat turned to the side.”
Steven Moore, 36, was shot and killed Dec. 3, 2011, also in the 1100 block of 21st Street Northeast. Prosecutors allege he was shot by Harris and Moghalu because they believed he was a “snitch.”
“He wasn’t just shot and killed, he was executed,” Lyons told the court during closings. “His shooters were sending a message: snitches are not tolerated.”
Moghalu, meanwhile, denied having any involvement with Moore’s death. In fact, Moghalu said he didn’t even know Moore.
“I knew of him, but we never conversed,” Moghalu testified at trial. “We never had an argument; we never had any kind of physical altercation. Never.”
Moghalu further testified that he was purchasing his girlfriend an engagement ring at the time of Moore’s death.
Metropolitan Police Detective Bryan Kasul testified that in March 2012 Worsley told him that people in the 21st Street neighborhood were upset with Moore because they thought he was “hot” and “snitching.”
Prosecutors said at trial, though, that Moore had never spoken with the government as a potential witness in any case.
Jury deliberations will resume Wednesday morning.