The high-profile criminal case against leaders is expected to be a window inside the sweeping drug operation that has devastated the city
Assistant US attorney Derek Owens placed a long cardboard box sealed with yellow evidence tape on a bench in federal court on Tuesday, and pulled out an AR-15 assault rifle seized in a 2004 raid on a notoriously violent Chicago gang.
Owens showed jurors the weapon, which was loaded with a 50-round clip when Chicago police recovered it as part of the departments investigation into the gang, known as the Hobos. Police efforts to take the gang down finally reached court last week when what is being billed as the largest gang trial in Chicago history began.
The assault rifle was among four semi-automatic handguns, one revolver, a small arsenal of ammunition nearing 400 rounds, and a cache of drugs that the Hobos were allegedly selling across the south side during their five-year reign as one of the citys most powerful gangs.
The trial is expected to be a window inside the sweeping alleged drug operation and their turf war with rivals. It also reveals details of the murder of Wilbert Moore, the police informant whose work prompted the 2004 raid that uncovered the evidence.
The case against leaders of the gang has been a long time coming: nine members of the gang were indicted in 2013 on charges of racketeering, murder, attempted murder and robbery.
From 2004 to 2009, high-level drug dealers were targeted in robberies to fuel the Hobos growing customer base, according to the 2013 indictment.
Rivals were shot and in some cases killed, witnesses were intimidated, and at least one police informant was allegedly gunned down by two high-ranking members of the gang.
The Hobos were an exceptionally violent gang, an FBI spokesman said at the time of the 2013 indictment, that used murder, threats and intimidation to further their agenda.
On the fifth day of the trial on Tuesday, the six alleged Hobo leaders facing charges sat silently in court surrounded by a team of nearly a dozen lawyers as jurors viewed photos from the 2004 raid at an apartment rented by 40-year-old Arnold Council, also known as Armstrong and Hobo, one of the gangs leaders.
Photos showed bags filled with hundreds of grams of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine next to the seized weapons and boxes of ammunition.
Edwin Utreras, the Chicago police officer who filed for the search warrant that eventually resulted in the raid, testified on Tuesday that Moore, the murdered informant, provided the officer with intelligence about the Hobos activities in the housing complex.
The two would meet in stairwells to discuss drug buys for Utreras to build his case for the search warrant and, on several occasions, Utreras said, Moore provided the officer with drugs purchased from the Hobos.
Council, the renter of the apartment that was raided, and Paris Poe, the leader of the gang, are alleged to have shot Moore to death outside a barbershop in January 2006.
Defense attorney Cynthia Giachetti noted the strange nature of the relationship between the informant and the officer. Utreras was not helping Moore secure a plea deal on any criminal charges he may have had at the time, nor was the officer paying the informant, a common practice for police working to break up drug rings.
An informant becomes an informant to get something, Giachetti said in a cross-examination of Utreras. But Moore was never arrested, you never helped with a pending charge, and you never paid him. Thats pretty unusual, isnt it?
Yes it is, Utreras said.
Without mentioning Utrerass involvement in the so-called Skullcap Crew, a group of Chicago police officers who are between them the subject of 20 federal lawsuits and 60 citizen complaints of misconduct or police brutality, Giachetti sought to paint Utreras as a dirty cop by associating him with his supervisor at the time, Sgt Ronald Watts.
In 2012, Watts was charged in federal court with stealing $5,200 in drug money that should have been handed over to the government. Following an FBI investigation, Watts pleaded guilty and served just less than two years in prison for the crime, according to court documents. Watts also has been named in several federal lawsuits that allege he falsely arrested a woman in a drug raid, refused medical care to a man who had been run down by another officer in a chase, and planted drugs on a resident of the Ida B Wells Homes.
After the jury left the courtroom on Tuesday, Owens and assistant US attorney Patrick Otlewski argued that Wattss name should not be brought up.
Giachetti told US district judge John Tharp that Utrerass proximity to Watts has significant relevance to the governments theory on the murder of Moore.
When asked by Tharp if there could be some connection between Watts and Moores murder, Giachetti said: Thats possible.
In addition to Moore, prosecutors say the alleged Hobos leaders are tied to four other murders and five attempted murders.