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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lincoln Park Piru, whose members included two brothers, Jeffrey and Tonie Future. Jeffrey Future is serving life in prison for his role in the slaying of Mr. Fernandez, a member of a rival street gang who was driven from Hazleton to Scranton and shot 12 times.

09:34 |

Following eight hours of deliberations over two days, a Lackawanna County jury convicted Christian Kenyon, a former West Scranton High School football player, on Wednesday of first-degree murder in a gang execution slaying on Snake Road in 2009.

Mr. Kenyon, 19, rested his chin in his hand, looking like a bored student, when the verdict carrying a life-in-prison sentence was read. His parents sat stoically in the back of the courtroom.

Besides the gang execution of Allen Fernandez, Mr. Kenyon was convicted of conspiracy to rob the Dunkin' Donuts on Moosic Street in Scranton along with related crimes and aggravated assault in a shooting on 10th Avenue in Scranton that left a man with life-threatening injuries.

Testimony during the eight-day trial provided a glimpse into the secretive world of Mr. Kenyon's Scranton street gang, the Lincoln Park Piru, whose members included two brothers, Jeffrey and Tonie Future. Jeffrey Future is serving life in prison for his role in the slaying of Mr. Fernandez, a member of a rival street gang who was driven from Hazleton to Scranton and shot 12 times.

Mr. Kenyon, testifying against the advice of his lawyers, said he was forced to participate in the execution of Mr. Fernandez that night by one of the other gunmen who shoved a gun in his stomach while suggesting he would be "food," gang slang for marked for death, if he did not join in the gunplay. It was an explanation the jury rejected in reaching its verdict.

State and local police who investigated the Snake Road slaying said Mr. Kenyon never mentioned that in any of his interviews, nor did he offer that explanation to his parents when they spoke to him while he was in prison. The jury heard audio tapes of those conversations in which Mr. Kenyon flatly stated he shot Mr. Fernandez.

The jury also read letters Mr. Kenyon and Tonie Future, another alleged gunman at the Snake Road murder who is awaiting trial, exchanged through a 16-year-old girl who agreed to act as a go-between for two gang members. Prosecutors said the letters and the tapes showed another side of Mr. Kenyon, that of a savvy gang member who talked about seeking revenge against the people he suspected had "ratted on" him regarding his involvement in the three crimes.

Those comments by Mr. Kenyon undermined the defense's claims that he was an impressionable teenager, a "follower" who fell in the wrong crowd.

During his testimony, Mr. Kenyon denied he was present the night Shaquan Burgess was shot twice outside an underage drinking party on 10th Avenue, and he denied he was at the Dunkin' Donuts on the night it was robbed at gunpoint by a masked man and a woman dressed as a man, who was later identified as Mr. Future's girlfriend.

In returning its verdict, the jury rejected Mr. Kenyon's story.

The jury convicted Mr. Kenyon of aggravated assault and a firearms offense but acquitted him of criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder.

In the Dunkin' Donuts case, the jury convicted Mr. Kenyon of criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, a firearms offense, receiving stolen property, theft, two counts of simple assault and two counts of reckless endangerment for each of the two clerks in the store. He was acquitted of aggravated assault and robbery with intent to inflict serious bodily injury.

Outside the courtroom, First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico, the lead prosecutor, praised what he called the "incredible" teamwork by state and local police and the FBI in solving the murder and following other leads that tied the three cases against Mr. Kenyon together.

Referring to the young ages of some the witnesses, Mr. Talerico, said "That's frightening that they are not drawn away from it (gangs), but drawn to it."

"You can't see what you've seen in the trial and not feel a sense of a pit in your stomach," Mr. Talerico said.

Asked if the investigation had spawned other gang investigations, Mr. Talerico said, "We are not able to talk about it."

Mr. Kenyon's parents and his lawyers declined to talk about the case.

A sentencing date for Mr. Kenyon has not been set by Judge Carmen Minora.

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