Big Money Block Boyz gang case to again go before appellate court in Baton Rouge _lowres

Advocate Staff Photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Members of the "Big Money Block Boyz" are led from a staging area to a transport bus at the Louisiana State Police Headquarters in April 2014. A multi-agency operation early morning "round-up" operation netted 24 arrests. The "Big Money Block Boyz" are a criminal organization based out of the Gardere area.

An alleged member of the violent Gardere-area "Big Money Block Boyz" street gang pleaded guilty Friday to murder-conspiracy and firearms charges and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison.

Kydris Womack's charges dated to 2014 when he and 18 other alleged Block Boyz members and associates were indicted by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury in a crackdown on the menacing gang.

Womack, 29, of Baton Rouge, still faces federal conspiracy, drug and firearms charges stemming from a November shooting in Gardere. He was free on bail on the state charges at the time of that incident.

Three other alleged Block Boyz members — John Goza III, 29, Timothy Prater, 21, and Davontay Ricks, 25, all of Baton Rouge — also face the federal charges.

Goza, Prater, Ricks and three other alleged Block Boyz members, including reputed leader Christopher "Big Money" Finister, 30, of St. Gabriel, are awaiting separate trials on state charges filed against them in 2014 as part of the crackdown.

Womack, who was set to stand trial next week, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm. He has a previous cocaine possession conviction, retired Orleans Parish Judge Jerome Winsberg noted in court.

Womack was accused of plotting with Finister, Goza, Ricks and Rasheedah Beloney, 30, of Baton Rouge, to kill Frank Johnson.

Previous testimony in the case indicated that Goza had a beef with Johnson, who was shot at Feb. 2, 2014, after leaving a supermarket near Gardere Lane in his pickup. The truck was hit by gunfire, but Johnson was not injured.

The firearm charge involved a .223-caliber rifle found at Beloney's Rush Avenue apartment. Womack's DNA was discovered on the rifle. Some of the .223-caliber shell casings found outside a Rush Avenue drug house on Feb. 2, 2014, were fired from the rifle. More than 60 spent 9 mm and .223-caliber shell casings were collected at the scene of that shooting.

Winsberg sentenced Womack to concurrent 20-year prison terms on the conspiracy and firearm counts. The term for the gun charge must be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, the judge explained. He gave Womack credit for the two years he has served since his arrest.

East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors dismissed two other charges against Womack — attempted second-degree murder and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

"We believe that this plea will adequately hold this defendant responsible for his actions as alleged in the charges filed against him," District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who praised Louisiana State Police and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office for their work on the case, said afterward.

Womack's attorney, Carson Marcantel, called the resolution of his case "kind of a good outcome for both sides."

Womack, Goza, Prater, Ricks and Finister were among 19 alleged Block Boyz members or associates indicted in April 2014 by a parish grand jury. Charges included racketeering, but that charge was later dropped to streamline the case and get it moving.

The massive case has been plagued with funding issues for many of the defendants. Prior to Womack's guilty plea, six of the defendants had pleaded guilty, either in the Block Boyz case or other cases. Charges against six of the original defendants were dropped.

Rasheedah Beloney, 30, of Baton Rouge, is the next remaining defendant set to be tried. Her trial is scheduled Monday.

Moore said his office is prepared to move forward on all of the remaining cases.

The federal charges against Womack, Goza, Prater and Ricks stem from their November arrest in Gardere, where authorities responded to a shooting and found a stolen handgun and stolen assault rifle, powder and crack cocaine, marijuana and a digital scale inside an apartment where the four men were located.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.