Closing arguments ended Tuesday in the racketeering trial of three men affiliated with a Native American gang known as the Native Mob, which prosecutors say was involved in a conspiracy to sell drugs and commit violence in Minneapolis and the Cass Lake area.
In closing arguments, prosecutors said the three men were part of a larger conspiracy that included a plan to eliminate their competition -- rival gang members and drug dealers. Prosecutors say the gang used guns to help them secure their territory and intimidate witnesses who could testify against their members. Defense attorneys admitted their clients committed crimes, but denied they were part of an organized criminal enterprise.
Wakinyon McArthur is the alleged leader of the Native Mob. Anthony Cree and William Morris are accused of being 'soldiers' in the gang. In his closing argument, Assistant US Attorney Andrew Winter described these men as playing different roles within a criminal enterprise. He said Arthur directed members to sell drugs and retaliate against rivals and snitches -- people who testify or work with law enforcement against other gang members. Winter said gang leaders call it, "putting in work" for the gang.
During closing remarks, Winter played excerpts from secretly recorded conversations between gang members. The recordings were made by gang members who became government informants. Winter also played video recordings of violent encounters between members of the Native Mob and rivals from other gangs or people they believed were informants. One video showed a fight at a Minnesota prison. Prosecutors say the man being attacked in the video had been accused of snitching on a member of the gang.
Defense attorneys voiced strong criticism of the government's use of informants to gather evidence against their clients. Attorney Fred Goetz, who represents McArthur, said the witnesses were lying in order to get leniency. He called a man nicknamed "Dopeboy" who testified during trial a "pathological liar."
Goetz also called the government's racketeering case, "a monumental case of government overreaching." He said McArthur was a member of the Native Mob, but said he was not a 'svengali' or 'puppet master' capable of telling gang members what to do. Goetz referred to the crimes committed by Native Mob members as random acts committed by young men with guns and "high impulse control problems."
But prosecutors argued the actions committed by members of the Native Mob -- whether it be selling crack, beating up an informant, or striking fear into the hearts of rivals or potential rivals -- was all done to benefit a criminal enterprise. Winter said the Native Mob had regular meetings, bylaws and a chain of command.
The other men on trial are accused of playing smaller roles in the alleged Native Mob criminal enterprise. Morris admitted to shooting a man in Cass Lake last year. However, his attorney, Tom Shiah, said Morris was not acting as part of a larger conspiracy, but that Morris had a personal beef with the man and acted alone. Shiah denies Morris is even a member of the Native Mob. The other defendant, Cree, was accused of getting the order to commit the shooting at Cass Lake from McArthur's brother. His attorney, John Brink says the phone call in which the alleged order was given is not credible because only a partial transcript of the call was available for trial.
The trial lasted six weeks and involved more than 200 witnesses. In addition to evidence, the jury will have to consider a federal racketeering law. If convicted on all counts, attorneys say the defendants will likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars.