Federal trial starts for Bloods gang members accused of terrorizing Southeast Raleigh

For more than a decade, the Black Mob Gangstas operated around Haywood Street in Southeast Raleigh, controlling cocaine and marijuana traffic, enforcing their street rules with extortion and murder, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

As a conspiracy and murder trial opened against two accused members of the Bloods-affiliated gang, Demetrice Devine and Brandon Mangum, government attorneys forecast an up-close look at the gang signs, code words and grudge-related violence that typified the now gentrifying corners east of downtown only 10 years ago.

“Money,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Lemmon. “Drugs. Violence. Greed. And power.”

Federal court documents describe a sophisticated gang structure, with members paying dues into a “community rent box” that bought drugs, drug houses, a shared gun collection and gifts for leaders behind bars. Dues also helped pay bail and hire lawyers for members in jail.

Devine, aka “Respect,” accused in a conspiracy to sell 500 grams of cocaine and 280 grams of crack, is described in court documents as sitting atop the gang hierarchy. He led meetings and lectured lower-ranking members on selling drugs and committing robberies to boost gang funds, his indictment said, cautioning them to keep careful track of guns.

The gang held regular meetings to initiate new members, punish those who broke rules and identify those cooperating with police or prosecutors, court documents state. In 2008, Devine, now 37, oversaw the “beat-in” initiation of a new member, according to his 2017 indictment.

Mangum, aka “B-Easy,” is accused of shooting a rival gang member who declined to pay dues. Rodriguez Burrell was killed outside his father’s house on Haywood Street in 2009, prompting anti-gang activists to march in the streets.

Defense to question evidence

The defense will argue that the prosecution’s case is long on drama and shock value but lacking in credible evidence.

Mark Edwards, attorney for Devine, said the vast majority of witnesses against his client are motivated by the chance at a reduced sentence, the opportunity to avoid charges or payback for slights.

One such witness, he said, turned on Devine once she heard a recorded conversation with him describing her as “thick” — not his type.

Mangum’s attorney, Meredith Hubbard, warned jurors U.S. attorneys will try to dazzle them with gang signs and symbols, distracting them from the fact that nothing directly links her client to the killing. The defense has acknowledged Mangum’s gang involvement but deny he had anything to do with murder.

“Being in a gang is not a crime,” she said.

Ten gang members have been indicted in the case altogether, including: Dontaous Demond Devine, aka “Scooch”; Demetrius Deshaun Toney, aka “Meat”; Cleveland McNair, aka “Blee”; Brenda Joyce Brown, aka “Lady Banga”; Katherine Victoria Gast, aka “Kat Snacks”; and Shaiona Marie Smith, aka “Slyfox.”

Christopher Darnell Evans, aka “Racks” and “Snacks,” pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2017 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.