Day 12: North Carolina Latin Kings on trial

The government put North Carolina Latin King member Charles Lawrence Moore on the witness stand in Winston-Salem on Wednesday as the federal racketeering trial of the organization powered into its third week.

Moore, who is also known by his street name Toastie, described an organization in which state leader Jorge Cornell, also known as King Jay, ordered violent retaliation against rivals and drew benefit from illegal activities. Moore is one of six defendants that have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government. Six other defendants, including Cornell, are on trial, and a 13th, Jason Yates, has been severed from the case and will stand trial separately.

But Moore’s account contradicted the earlier testimony of another cooperating defendant, Richard Robinson, also known as King Focus.

Both men testified that Wesley Williams, also known as King Bam, told them he was going to go burn down his grandmother’s vacant house on Kirkman Street, and that they listened on a police scanner to a report that the Kirkman Street house was on fire. Later, they said, Williams returned and said he had done the deed.

And both testified that Cornell called Cara Williams, Bam’s mother, in New Jersey to demand a cut of the fraudulent insurance proceeds.

“Cornell said he wanted $10,000 of it or he was going to send some kings up to her house in New Jersey,” Robinson testified.

In contrast, Moore testified that Cornell called Williams and said, “I know your son burned that house down. I want some of that money. If not, I will call the police and tell them.”

The government alleges that Cornell and Williams arranged for the house to be burned down.

But Moore testified that he heard Williams say, “I’m gonna burn that house down for the insurance money.”

“What did Jay say?” Assistant US Attorney Robert AJ Lang asked.

“He said, ‘Whatever,’” Moore testified.

Moore also testified that when Williams returned from committing arson, he and Focus told him: “You stupid.”

In one incident, Moore testified that Cornell organized a retaliatory strike against a member of the Bloods at the Smith Homes public housing community because Bloods beat Moore up.

Moore said that he had been staying with a woman named Shadavia and her boyfriend, a Blood named Terrell, at an apartment on West Florida Street, which is part of Smith Homes. The three were selling marijuana out of the apartment. Moore said one night in August 2011, Shadavia and Terrell went out, and he stayed back at the apartment to sell marijuana.

While he was coming home from the store, Moore said two men attacked him, burned his arm, and then ransacked the apartment looking for the marijuana. When Terrell returned he didn’t believe Moore’s story and beat him up because he thought that Moore had stolen from him. Moore testified that Terrell also called a couple friends over, and they also beat him up.

The jury looked at a photo taken of Moore at Cone hospital, which showed his face covered with bruises. Cornell and his girlfriend at the time, Michelle Smith, drove over to the hospital to visit Moore.

“He asked what happened,” Moore testified. “I said, ‘I got jumped.’ He didn’t like it. He said if it was just Terrell, it would have been all right. But he didn’t like that the whole group of them put hands on me.”

Moore testified that a group of Latin Kings, including Focus, Hype, Tago and Solo, drove over to meet a Crip named Cole. Hype is the street name for Samuel Velasquez, one of the six defendants on trial. Moore said that Cole tried to lure Terrell out of the apartment so that the Latin Kings could jump him, but he refused to come out.

“Jay said we should shoot Shadavia’s house up to get back at him,” Moore testified. “Cole was standing up in Hype’s Acura, and he shot into Shadavia’s house.”

The jury looked at photos of the West Florida Street apartment, and a Greensboro police officer testified about bullet holes that she found that indicated a bullet had been fired through the kitchen door, passing through a doorway and landing in the living room.

Moore also testified that Shadavia called the police, which further angered Cornell. As a result, Cornell wanted her beat up and ordered a Latin Queen from Lumberton to come to Greensboro to fight her. Moore said that Cornell also ordered him to fight Terrell to even the score.

Lang asked Moore what happened.

“We did it,” Moore testified. He did not elaborate, and the prosecution did not ask him to do so.

In another incident, Moore said a Latin King named Trigger had beat up a guy for some money. The victim reportedly called Trigger a name, and Trigger punched him. Moore testified that he and Solo had been working security for a sweepstakes business when he received a call from Cornell telling them to report to a house on Pinecroft Road, where Cornell was staying with Bob and Signe Foxworth at the time. Moore said Cornell ordered some Latin Kings to go beat up the person who had called Trigger a name.

The government also played a YouTube video of North Carolina Latin Kings, including Cornell, Moore, Robinson, Williams and defendant Russell Kilfoil, at a march in Detroit in the summer of 2010.

The government alleges in the racketeering indictment against the defendant that Cornell told a Latin Kings member on June 22, 2010 that he was going to attend a Latin Kings conference in Detroit. Dozens of Greensboro activists traveled to Detroit that month for the US Social Forum, a gathering of progressive activists from across the United States.

Moore testified that the Rev. Nelson Johnson chartered a bus to Detroit and gave Latin Kings members $125 for meals and other incidental expenses. Cornell was stricken with a heart attack or a stroke during the trip, Moore testified, and as a result the Latin Kings spent much of their time at a hospital.

The government also played audio recordings made by Jose Lugo, a Latin Kings member who was wearing a wire for the FBI. The recordings were difficult to hear and comprehend for spectators in the gallery. The government has provided transcripts to members of the jury to help them follow the recordings, but Judge James A. Beaty Jr. through the clerk of court has denied a request to provide transcripts to reporters and other spectators.

In some of the recordings, Latin Kings who are apparently traveling in a car can be heard referencing street names in Greensboro, and one member can be heard saying something about seeing an ex-member’s car. Moore identified Cornell as a person discussing King Squirrel, another defendant, and King Radar, a Latin King in the organization’s national hierarchy in Chicago.

“Squirrel don’t have no authorization,” Cornell can be heard saying. “Radar says he doesn’t even know who they are.”

The government also called witnesses from law enforcement, including a High Point police detective who is part of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, who testified that Surenos-13 is the dominant gang in High Point. Witnesses described items taken from a Latin Kings house on Lexington Avenue in Greensboro during a December 2011 raid, including numerous pieces of gold and black clothing, beads, jewelry, playing cards, and the organization’s constitution and manifesto.

High Point police Detective Dennis Szentmariay testified under cross-examination that the task force found no guns or machetes in the house.

Michael Patrick, Cornell’s court-appointed lawyer, asked Szentmariay if law enforcement officers found any drugs in the house. But Judge Beaty sustained an objection on the basis of relevancy from the government, and the detective did not answer.

The jury also saw photographs of Cornell’s many tattoos, including one that says “Code of Silence” and another that says “Death Before Dishonor” in Spanish.

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