When it comes to the high-profile 2012 killings of 5-year-old Brianna Allen and Shawanna Pierce in Central City, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office is taking a different tack against some of the alleged gang members suspected in the deadly gunfire.
Instead of waiting to try them under a wide-ranging racketeering indictment handed up last year against 15 purported members of the 110’ers street gang for crimes that include the slayings of Brianna and Pierce, prosecutors are trying some of the men separately for other murders listed in the indictment in a bid to put them away more quickly. And they’re using other defendants who have cut deals in the racketeering case to do it.
On Friday, a jury took little more than an hour to find 110’ers member Sam “Lil” Newman, 18, guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of 22-year-old Jonathan “Kruga” Lewis in Gentilly.
That killing took place less than two weeks after Brianna and Pierce, 33, were slain in a hail of gunfire in what authorities claim was an attempt on a rival gang.
The verdict comes less than two months after another 110’er and member of an affiliated group, Team Murder, was convicted in the same courtroom. A jury in August found Demond “Lil D” Sandifer, a half-brother of Newman, guilty in the 2011 killing of 22-year-old Milton Davis.
Authorities have identified the 110’ers as a St. Thomas-area umbrella gang responsible for numerous murders and other violent crimes over a five-year span, saying the group killed with little motive other than bloodshed and pride, boasting of their exploits in jail calls and on social media.
A state grand jury handed up the massive, 51-count racketeering indictment in May 2013.
It named Newman, Sandifer and two other men, Tyron Harden and Stanton “Na Na” Guillory, in the murders of Brianna and Pierce.
Police allege that Newman, Sandifer and Harden opened fire on a birthday party in the 1200 block of Simon Bolivar Avenue about 6 p.m. May 29, 2012. Bullets struck Brianna and Pierce, who was in her car about a block away from the party. Both died a short time later from their injuries. Three other people were injured, including a 10-year-old boy who was one of Brianna’s relatives and was celebrating his birthday.
Police said Harden was a known member of the Young Mafia Fellaz gang and was associated with the 110’ers. Guillory was believed to be the driver for the birthday shooting spree.
Both Sandifer and Newman were 16 at the time of the killings.
The jury returned its verdict against Newman about 6:30 p.m. after a trial in which Assistant District Attorney Alex Calenda portrayed him as a cold-blooded killer who, along with Guillory, Charles “Buddy” Lewis and others, happened upon Jonathan Lewis during an all-night crime spree and decided to kill him.
Buddy Lewis, who earlier took a 10-year plea deal in the racketeering case, took the witness stand Thursday to describe in gripping detail the lead-up to the slaying of Jonathan Lewis and its aftermath.
“We pulled over and waited for him to pull up to the intersection. When he pulled up to the intersection, (Guillory) and Lil jumped out and killed him,” Lewis testified.
The jury apparently disregarded efforts by Newman’s attorneys, Bradley Phillips and Stavros Panagoulopoulos, to discredit Buddy Lewis and other witnesses because of their criminal history and gang affiliations.
The scenario was similar in Sandifer’s trial in August, when prosecutors called his father, Antonio “Big Rico” Johnson, to the stand to testify to his son’s gang affiliation. Johnson, who also was named in the racketeering indictment, had taken an eight-year plea deal in the case.
Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier set a Nov. 13 sentencing hearing for Newman. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the killing, a life sentence for Newman is not automatic on the murder conviction.
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