Eight years ago, state murder and conspiracy charges were dismissed against three alleged members of a high-profile Raleigh street gang because prosecutors didn’t think they have enough evidence.
But now federal prosecutors have renewed the murder charges against the men who avoided state prosecution.
Authorities say Demetrius Deshaun aka “Meat” Toney and Brandon Jowan aka “B-Easy” Mangum conspired with another man, Dontaous Demond aka “Boochie” or “Scooch” Devine, to gun down Rodriguez D. Shay Burrell on the front steps of his father’s home near the downtown Raleigh district in May 2009. They say Toney and Devine, of Raleigh, and Mangum, of Knightdale, are members of the Black Mob Gangstas/Donald Gee Family (BMG/DGF), a set of the Bloods street gang that had been operating near downtown Raleigh, particularly the Haywood Street area, since the early 2000s.
Federal prosecutors have also charged two other alleged gang members for the 2009 shooting – Demetrice Regus Devine, also known as “Respect,” who is described in court documents as one of the leaders of the BMG/DGF, and Shaiona Marie Smith, aka “Slyfox.” Both Smith and Demetrice Devine are from Raleigh.
Smith pleaded guilty to violent crime in aid of racketeering, Don Connelly, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, reported Tuesday.
The five were charged with murder and other gang-related crimes after a grand jury returned indictments that accused them of violation of federal racketeering laws used to combat organized crime. Federal investigators say the five were responsible for the death of Burrell – described in the indictment as a rival gang member – after he refused to pay gang dues.
The state’s case against Toney, Devine and Mangum originally languished in the court system because local prosecutors did not think they had enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Two years after the arrest of the three, Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens dismissed the charges of murder and conspiracy, according to records filed at the Wake Clerk of Superior Courts Office.
Police took Dontaous Devine into custody on first-degree murder charges on Sept. 26, 2009. Toney and Mangum were arrested one day before. Devine was released five months later on Feb. 3, 2010, after paying a reduced bond of $150,000 and submitting to electronic house arrest, according to state court records.
Custody records were not available for Mangum, but Toney stayed behind bars for two years before the charges were dismissed.
On March 11, 2011, after being in jail for more than a year, Toney wrote a seven-line letter asking the court why.
“This is Demetrius Toney,” he wrote, “I have been sitting in here for 18 months and still haven’t heard about a trial date. My lawyer is Dewey O’Kelly and I haven’t heard from him either. I’m just wondering if I have a trial date coming up and if I can have a copy of my motion discovery because I still haven’t received that yet.”
Toney sat in jail four more months before the charges against him were dismissed by Stephens on Aug 4.
This year, investigators relied on a stronger law enforcement tool to help prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged gang members were behind the 2009 shooting of Burrell. Federal prosecutors used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO Act) that was passed by Congress in 1970 to go after them. In indictments made public in early January and last month, investigators said BMG/DGF was a criminal organization that had conspired to participate in the racketeering activities of the gang and conspiracy to distribute narcotics.
The indictments say the street gang relied on a detailed hierarchical structure, with a senior leadership that regularly conducted formal meetings, collected dues from the rank-and-file members and assaulted members who failed to pay dues or follow orders. Gang members earned money for their dues through various criminal activities, including robberies, fraud schemes and drug distribution.
Investigators say the street gang also committed various acts of violence to further the gang’s activities – attempted murder, assaults and murder, including the shooting death of Burrell, an 18-year-old father of a 4-year-old daughter. Federal investigators also think the street gang was responsible for the drive-by shooting death of 16-year-old Adarius Fowler in November 2008.
Five of the 10 who were charged in the first indictment, including Smith, have already pleaded guilty to several of the racketeering charges. Cleveland McNair and Christopher Evans both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in a pattern of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances. Brenda Brown and Katherine Gast pleaded guilty to violent crime in aid of racketeering, Connelly reported.