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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Judge this morning rejected a plea deal for 28-year-old Futo Charles, an alleged Top 6 gang member

18:15 |

Judge this morning rejected a plea deal for 28-year-old Futo Charles, an alleged Top 6 gang member charged with racketeering, part of a statewide strategy to put gangs out of business.Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Todd Weicholz told Circuit Judge Karen Miller that Charles had given three cooperating statements to the prosecutors, and in exchange was offered a deal of eight years in prison followed by five years probation.Miller immediately declared she would not accept the deal in light of sentences she has handed out in other Top 6 cases. Miller sentenced each of two other accused members — Ernst Exavier and Jessee Thomas — to a quarter-century in prison earlier this year following their convictions on the charge.The lawyers set Futo Charles for another court date in April, following the next trial of an alleged Top 6 member, 23-year-old Wilbertson Noelzinord.Exavier and Thomas' conviction was the first significant victory in Palm Beach County for statewide prosecutors now applying racketeering laws to dismantle criminal gangs.
Defense attorneys for Exavier and Thomas argued at their sentencing that it was a case of guilt by association, that the men never had admitted to being members of the gang, and if they were involved at all, it was as lesser players. Exavier testified his only intention was to make music with Top 6.
Futo, Exavier and Thomas are among 12 alleged Top-6 gang members arrested within the past year during a coordinated operation by the attorney general's office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the Lantana and Boynton Beach police departments.Attorney Gerald Salerno, who represented Exavier, said in 17 years of practicing criminal law he had never seen a case like this one with a huge investigative effort but thin evidence. Salerno offered the example of Exavier's song lyrics about pushing kilos of cocaine being prominently emphasized at trial. "Despite that we never saw one shred of evidence" of any drugs, he said.

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