Orleans jury convicts ‘3NG’ gang leader after 10-day racketeering trial _lowres

Kentrell 'Black' Hickerson

Two weeks of testimony about the bloody wrath of a ruthless Central City drug-dealing gang was enough for an Orleans Parish jury to convict its accused leader Friday on state racketeering and drug conspiracy counts that could mean a centurylong prison sentence for Kentrell “Black” Hickerson.

The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before returning with guilty verdicts on two of the three counts against Hickerson, 36.

Orleans Parish prosecutors attributed two murders to Hickerson as “overt acts” under the main racketeering charge: the slayings of Durrell “Duke” Pooler in October 2008 and Omar Breaux five months later. But during several days of testimony, Hickerson’s former gang associates testified about other killings they said he committed or directed.

Hickerson’s conviction on the racketeering count alone, given his status as a multiple-felony offender, carries a sentence of up to 100 years.

The jury also convicted him on a count of conspiracy to distribute heroin in furtherance of gang activity, which could add more years to his sentence.

He was found not guilty on a similar conspiracy charge involving crack cocaine.

Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras set a June 16 sentencing date for Hickerson, the lone defendant to stand trial among 20 men named in a sweeping indictment in 2013 that alleged 10 murders and numerous other shootings and drug crimes committed to empower the “3NG” gang.

The gang, named for its stomping grounds at Third and Galvez streets, sought control of the heroin and crack trade in a swath of Central City while meting out violence against members of rival gangs in the former Calliope housing complex and elsewhere, according to the 30-count indictment.

Among the unintended victims were toddler Keira Holmes, who was killed in 2011 in the courtyard of the housing project, then called B.W. Cooper, and rapper Renetta “Magnolia Shorty” Lowe, whom admitted 3NG associates described as collateral damage in an assault on gang rival Jerome “Man Man” Hampton in December 2010.

Lowe and Hampton were killed in a barrage of more than 50 bullets as they sat in a car in New Orleans East. One admitted 3NG associate, Rico “Freaky” Jackson, testified this week that Hampton had threatened him. Jackson has admitted joining four others in the fatal shooting spree.

Prosecutor Alex Calenda told the jury Hampton’s killing could be traced to a series of retaliatory shootings sparked by the murder of famous local rapper James Tapp, better known as “Soulja Slim,” in 2003.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office dated the group’s criminal actions to 2005 in the indictment, but a series of witnesses told the jury the group’s criminal activities went back to the 1990s.

The 19 other defendants in the case all pleaded guilty before trial.

One of them, Washington “Big Wash” McCaskill, testified that Hickerson rose to the top of 3NG by virtue of his slaying in 2002 of Alexis “Slam” Williams, a feared force in the B.W. Cooper neighborhood.

“That put him on top of the food chain,” McCaskill testified.

A different jury acquitted Hickerson in 2012 for the murder of Alvin Wilson on June 29, 2008, at First and South Prieur streets — 3NG turf — after a witness recanted his identification of Hickerson. The allegation that Hickerson killed Wilson re-emerged during the racketeering trial.

Unusually heavy security surrounded Hickerson’s trial, as New Orleans Police Department gang-unit officers manned the courtroom door. Police brass said they also were girding for fallout from the trial on Central City streets.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.