Guilty verdict in Minnesota Native Mob trial

Andrew Winter, Steve Schleicher
Prosecutor Andrew Winter, left, listens as fellow prosecutor Steve Schleicher talks to reporters after a federal jury Tuesday, March 19, 2013, in Minneapolis convicted three alleged members of an American Indian gang accused of terrorizing people in the upper Midwest.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

A federal jury in Minneapolis Tuesday found three men guilty of multiple racketeering charges for their affiliation with the gang known as the Native Mob.

After deliberating for more than five days, the jury found guilty on several counts Wakinyon McArthur, 34, who is the alleged head of the Native Mob, Anthony Cree, 26, and William Morris, 25. The trial lasted six weeks and included testimony from more than 200 witnesses.

Prosecutors said the Native Mob is a criminal enterprise whose members sold drugs, committed violence and other crimes in order to support the gang.

However, defense attorneys denied the Native Mob was an organized gang. They say the defendants were essentially independent contractors who formed an alliance for protection against rivals. Jurors found that McArthur played a central role in a criminal enterprise that sold drugs, trafficked weapons and committed acts of violence.

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Jurors found Cree guilty of six counts, including racketeering charges. One of those charges was for attempted murder. Jurors did not find Morris to be tied directly to the larger Native Mob conspiracy but did find him guilty of four charges, including one which was conspiracy related.

Assistant US Attorney Andrew Winter said he was pleased with the jury's work.

"The verdicts reflect the seriousness of the crimes that were being committed by the Native Mob, which includes not only drug trafficking, but discharging of firearms at innocent people and trafficking in firearms and basically wreaking havoc throughout communities throughout the state of Minnesota," Winter said.

Throughout the six-week long trial, Winter portrayed the Native Mob as an organized group that followed a chain of command, held regular meetings and followed a set of bylaws. Winter said gang members committed their crimes in order to benefit the gang.

However, defense attorneys said the defendants were essentially independent contractors who formed an alliance for protection against rivals, and were not members of a criminal enterprise.

Defense attorney Fred Goetz, who represented McArthur, said the verdicts were a mixed bag for his client. McArthur was not convicted of every charge he faced. Goetz said jurors did not see McArthur's role in the conspiracy to be as extensive as prosecutors did.

"(McArthur) is not looking at a life sentence, at least on count one," Goetz said. "I think we're in a much better position now than we were at the start of the trial."

Goetz said he will decide whether to file an appeal after McArthur is sentenced.

Attorney Tom Shiah, representing Morris, said the verdicts showed his client was not a main conspirator. Shiah said he will likely take up what he calls a discrepancy in the verdicts during an appeal.

"It is a little inconsistent when you're not guilty of racketeering, and you're guilty of crimes in aid of racketeering," Shiah said. "That will play out in an appellate court."

The verdicts are part of a larger crackdown on the Native Mob which began nearly a decade ago. Winter said the investigation has involved several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration. He says so far prosecutors have convicted 30 Native Mob members.

Sentencing dates for the latest convictions have not yet been set.