The US government called former members of the Latin Kings and Sureños-13; a robbery victim; a drug enforcement agent; and police officers from Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh as prosecutors attempted to build their case against the Latin Kings in federal court in Winston-Salem on Thursday.
US Drug Enforcement Agent Steven Razik’s testimony was mainly significant for his statement that the street value of a gram of cocaine in Greensboro in 2005 was somewhere in the range of $70 to $100. Earlier in the week brothers Daniel Vasquez and Robert Vasquez had testified that they sold cocaine in Greensboro nightclubs under North Carolina Latin Kings leader Jorge Cornell’s direction for $20 per gram. Under cross-examination, Robert Vasquez appeared to be unfamiliar with basic weights, proffering a guess that a kilo was equivalent to a pound.
Michael Patrick, Cornell’s public defender, asked Razik: “In 2005, if someone were selling a gram of cocaine for $20, would they be making a profit?”
“I would think not,” Razik replied. “No, sir.”
Prosecutor Leshia Lee-Dixon attempted to salvage the government's case that the Latin Kings under Jorge Cornell's direction engaged in narcotics trafficking by obtaining testimony from Razik in redirect that cocaine is often diluted, or "cut," at each stage of distribution to increase the quantity, which can diminish the product's street value.
Later, Jose Gibson, who identified himself as a former member of Sureños-13, testified that he and some friends were ambushed by Latin Kings from Greensboro in Harvell Park in southwest High Point in April 2007. Gibson testified that after he was attacked he started swinging. One of the Latin Kings stabbed him three times with an unknown weapon.
Allan Jordan, a former member who the North Carolina who left the group sometime in 2008 or 2009, testified that he had been part of the group that attacked the Sureños-13 members. Jordan, also known as King Smooth, said Anthony Vasquez, also known as King Menace, had been having some trouble at school with Sureños-13. He and others were at a Latin Kings member’s apartment on Kivett Drive in High Point, when Jordan said, they received a call from Cornell ordering them to go to the park and wait for the Sureños-13 members. Jordan testified that he watched King Leo stab one of the Sureños with a pocketknife.
King Leo is identified in the indictment as Steaphan Acencio-Vasquez. He is one of seven defendants who have pleaded guilty and agreed to turn state’s evidence against six remaining defendants. Jordan testified that he began cooperating with the FBI in 2010, that he received an “immunity letter” from the government and has not been charged in a handful of robberies that he admitted to.
Lee-Dixon asked Jordan how many times Cornell gave orders to beat people up.
“Not many times,” Jordan responded, as Cornell leaned forward and looked directly at him from across the courtroom.
“Sometimes he wouldn’t have to give the order,” Jordan added. “We’d just react on ourselves.”
Jordan testified that he participated in the robberies of $2.50 Cleaners on High Point Road in Greensboro, Rose’s Department Store in Greensboro, a laundry (likely Express Laundry in DP Business Center in Greensboro), a “Mexican store” (likely El Tarahumara on East Kivett Drive in High Point), and a “CD store” (likely Musica Latina in High Point).
Jordan said he, Leo, Yayo (the street name for defendant Ernesto Wilson) and Speechless (the street name for cooperating defendant Luis Alberto Rosa) planned the robbery of $2.50 Cleaners together on the way to the store. Like Rosa, Jordan testified that Yayo hit the storeowner in the head with a gun during the robbery. Jordan testified that Cornell did not receive any of the proceeds of that robbery.
The laundry robbery was carried out with no planning, Jordan testified. Jordan corroborated the testimony of the victims, along with Rosa, that Yayo broke out the window of a vehicle and hit a woman with a gun to get the money from the store. Jordan said that all of the robbers gave some of the money to Cornell, although he could not provide a specific answer for why Cornell got a cut.
“That’s just what we did,” he said.
Jordan testified that he cased the CD store in High Point, but sat in the car while Yayo and Speechless carried out the robbery.
After the robbery of the Mexican store in High Point, Jordan said they returned to 2809 Keeler Street, the Greensboro house where many Latin Kings lived. Cornell was there at the time. Jordan said he wasn’t allowed to keep any of the money because Cornell was angry that he had taken his gun to use in the robbery.
Jordan seemed reluctant in describing the Rose’s Department Store robbery, in which he identified Cornell as the driver. He testified that they unloaded detergents, drinks, shirts and other merchandise off of a trailer.
Lee-Dixon asked what happened to the merchandise.
“We used most of it,” Jordan responded.
Jordan testified that he was shot while riding in Jason Paul Yates’ white Chevy Caprice after attending a low-rider car show in Durham at one point. Detective JR Salmon, who investigated the incident for the Durham Police Department, said he was unable to identify a shooter, and the case was turned over to someone else. Jordan also testified that Yates gave him his Latin Kings tattoos.
Yates is one of seven defendants who has not signed a plea deal and agreed to cooperate with the government. Yates came from Chicago and struggled with Cornell, a native of Brooklyn, NY, for control of the North Carolina Latin Kings in 2008. Yates’ case was severed from the racketeering case because his public defender told the judge she was not prepared to go to trial.
Jordan testified that he left the Latin Kings after he and Paul — the street name for Randolph Kilfoil, who is the biological brother of Cornell and another defendant, Russell Kilfoil — stole a firearm from the Latin Kings house on Keeler Street and make it look like an outside job. Jordan said Paul planned the robbery because he wanted to get back at one of his brothers, but reconciled after the robbery and betrayed Jordan.
Jordan said he was beaten by the other members for the theft and effectively stripped of his membership. After that, he said he had no desire to be part of the group.
“After all the backstabbing, controlling, power-hungriness,” Jordan said, “there was not no more any place for me.”
After the break, Jordan said he continued to live at 2809 Keeler Street with Anthony Vasquez and Robert Vasquez, who had also become estranged from Cornell. Earlier in the week, defense attorneys introduced into evidence a photograph of the Vasquez brothers posing with a group of young men wearing Latin Kings colors in Asheboro in 2010.
Jordan contradicted himself under direct examination by the prosecutor.
Lee-Dixon asked if he still considered himself a Latin King after his break with Cornell.
“Not after that,” Jordan responded.
The prosecutor then asked Jordan what he told FBI agents in May 2010.
“I was still part of the Latin Kings with Anthony Vasquez and Robert Vasquez,” Jordan testified.
Brian Aus, the public defender for Russell Kilfoil, attempted to establish a defense by obtaining testimony that Jordan aligned himself with a more violent faction of the Latin Kings, but the witness didn’t take the bait.
“There were two different schools of thought — one from Chicago, one from New York,” Aus said.
“Right,” Jordan agreed.
“Did you tell the grand jury that the Chicago style was you’re either beat in or you kill someone to become a member?” Aus asked.
In a tortured response, Jordan said that he had not told the grand jury that, but he knew it to be the case.
Aus tried to get Jordan to admit that after his break with Cornell’s group he aligned himself with Yates, but Jordan’s responses were inconclusive and ambiguous.
The government also put Greensboro police Officer Charles Schneider on the stand.
Schneider testified that he executed a vehicle stop on Spring Garden Street near the Wendover Avenue exit in January 2008 because the car’s 30-day tag was dirty and appeared to be expired. Schneider said that all the occupants of the car consented to a search, and he discovered a .380 Bersa handgun inside the waistband of Samuel Velasquez’s pants. Velasquez is one of the seven defendants who did not plead guilty.
Schneider said he charged Velasquez with carrying a concealed weapon.
The prosecutor asked Schneider if he later determined that the firearm had been stolen. Judge James Beaty Jr. sustained an objection by the defense and the officer did not answer the question.