Members of 39ers street gang indicted in sprawling racketeering case; group accused of 12 murders _lowres

Tyrone Knockum

He won’t be getting his T-bone steak anytime soon.

However, a former 3NG gang member who confessed to a role in the fatal shooting of bounce rapper Magnolia Shorty was spared life in prison when a federal judge last week sentenced him to 24 years, according to his defense attorney.

U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey sentenced Tyrone “T-Bone” Knockum on Thursday, said his attorney, Eusi Phillips.

Knockum, 27, was a member of the 3NG gang, based in Central City at Third and Galvez streets, which combined forces with the “G-Strip” gang in the 9th Ward to form the fearsome “39’ers” alliance.

Knockum was spared what could have been a life sentence thanks to his extensive cooperation with state and federal prosecutors as they took down members of the “39’ers” gang, which was blamed for 14 killings in 2010 and 2011.

In one of those attacks, Knockum acted as the driver as four other men shot dead Renetta "Magnolia Shorty" Lowe and Jerome "ManMan" Hampton at a New Orleans East apartment complex on Dec. 20, 2010. Knockum testified that Lowe was the innocent casualty of an attack directed at Hampton.

His stint on the witness stand helped federal prosecutors convict all 10 “39'ers" members who went to trial in February.

One state prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Alex Calenda, once joked in a phone call that he would share a steak dinner with Knockum upon his release. A recording of that call became fodder for defense attorneys, who argued that it showed far too cozy a relationship between a prosecutor and a star witness.

"I expect me and you to go have a steak dinner, and I don't expect you to get a filet mignon. I expect you to get a T-bone," Calenda said in the call.

The two men were discussing Knockum's testimony in the state trial of 3NG leader Kentrell Hickerson, who was convicted.

Knockum had earlier pleaded guilty in the state's gang case against the 3NG group and was sentenced to 20 years. With credit for the six years he's already spent behind bars, Knockum may be released in about 14 years.

Meanwhile, the men who opted to take their chances in federal court have received far sterner sentences. Zainey gave life terms to eight out of ten of them.

Two remaining defendants in the 39'ers case who pleaded guilty and testified at the trial — Washington "Big Wash" McCaskill and Rico Jackson — are due to be sentenced in October.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432