A state gang racketeering case against eight members of a Pigeon Town street crew known as “The Taliban” all but wrapped up on Wednesday with guilty pleas from three of the four remaining defendants.
Jerome “Sookie” Toliver, Cornie “Porch” Jones and Darryl “Dino” Bannister all stood before Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman to plead guilty to the main racketeering charge in a 12-count indictment handed up in August 2013. All three men also pleaded guilty to a pair of aggravated battery counts from a 2012 shooting and a charge of public intimidation.
The Taliban case is among several gang racketeering prosecutions that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office has pursued over the past four years, aiming to cast an array of seemingly isolated examples of street violence, gun possession and drug dealing under the umbrella of organized crime.
Unlike many of those other gang prosecutions, what the Taliban case lacked was a wide scope of jarring violence, or even much by way of a modus operandi for the group.
The deals that Jones, Bannister and Toliver struck brought them relatively short prison sentences.
Jones, 27, took an eight-year prison term, with two years tacked on for operating as a member of a gang. Bannister, 30, received six years, while Toliver, 25, accepted seven total years for his guilty pleas.
The maximum sentence under the racketeering count is 50 years.
The brunt of the prosecution fell on a pair of alleged Taliban members, Tyrone “Tyga” Davenport and Dale “Check Peazy” Elmore, who both were convicted in June of second-degree murder in the Jan. 5, 2011, killing of Ralph Bias on the Pontchartrain Expressway.
Two other defendants in the case — Seyuntray Noel and Tyrone “Burga” Brooks — pleaded guilty last year. Noel received a four-year sentence, while Brooks got a 10-year suspended sentence.
Only one defendant, Jamal “Malloyn Calloyn” Harris, still awaits trial in the case.
Jones, Bannister and Toliver all were named in the main racketeering count, in which a state grand jury found no drug activity binding the group but a violent streak they tapped to protect their turf and reputation.
“Members of the enterprise and their associates promoted a climate of fear through violence and threats of violence,” beginning at least as early as June 2010, the 12-count indictment alleges.
Toliver, Jones and Bannister all tried to kill a man named Corey Martin on March 31, 2012, the indictment says, and the same day, they tried to kill a person identified only as “J.L.”
Originally facing attempted murder counts, the three men instead pleaded guilty Tuesday to a pair of aggravated battery charges in those attacks.
Shooting at Martin also earned the three men public intimidation charges, to which they all pleaded guilty as part of their deals.
Court records show that Toliver, Jones and Bannister were originally charged in 2012 with two counts each of attempted murder and one count of intimidating a witness.
A year later, after Criminal District Judge Frank Marullo found no probable cause on the intimidation count, Cannizzaro’s office went to a grand jury to secure the racketeering indictment.
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, acknowledged that the Taliban case wasn’t “as expansive a racketeering indictment as some of the other cases.”
Still, he pointed to the convictions of Davenport and Elmore, who each are slated to be sentenced this month to life in prison for Bias’ murder.
Bowman also said an uncooperative witness hamstrung the prosecution.
“There’s no doubt that this was a win for the criminal justice system and for the people in this city,” Bowman said of the guilty pleas and sentences.
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