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Businessman, 6 Reputed Gang Leaders Convicted in Drug Ring Trial : Crime: Most were tied to Chicago’s El Rukn organization. One defendant is half brother of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A businessman and six reputed leaders of the El Rukn street gang were convicted by a federal jury Sunday of taking part in a murderous conspiracy to distribute drugs in Chicago.

“This trial took out the day-to-day street leaders, the most violent people,” Assistant U.S. Atty. William Hogan said. “We eliminated the entire upper echelon of the El Rukn organization.”

The defendants included millionaire businessman Noah Robinson, half brother of two-time Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson.

This trial was the third of five stemming from the indictments of 65 reputed El Rukn leaders in 1989 that prosecutors say broke the back of the once-powerful street gang. So far, 33 of the 65 have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the case, Hogan said.

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Prosecutors say the gang used threats and murder to further its narcotics trade in the city in the mid-1980s.

The jury convicted all seven defendants on most of the serious charges against them, including murder conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy and other racketeering charges.

Robinson and defendant Edgar Cooksey were acquitted of witness-tampering charges.

All the defendants face life terms without possibility of parole. U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen scheduled sentencing for Dec. 12.

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Robinson was convicted, among other charges, of conspiring to kill a business associate and a witness against the El Rukns. He also was convicted on charges he put jailed El Rukn leader Jeff Fort in touch with drug dealers from the East Coast and shared the profits from the deal.

“Robinson gave them a facade of legitimacy,” Hogan said. “The El Rukns were one step away from being an organization as difficult to penetrate as the Mafia.”

Robinson also was convicted of hiring El Rukns to kill Leroy (Hambone) Barber, a former employee and childhood friend. Robinson is appealing a felony accessory to murder conviction in South Carolina in connection with Barber’s slaying.

Jackson has described his relationship with Robinson as strained. He was not at his Chicago home Sunday and his wife declined to comment. Jackson’s number in Washington is not listed.

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The other defendants were Jeff Boyd, Andrew Craig, Charles Green, Sammy Knox and Felix Mayes.

Defense lawyers said they would appeal the verdicts. Several said their clients were convicted more for their connections with the El Rukns than any specific acts.

“Although the judge instructed the jury that mere association was not enough, that association has ultimately been Mr. Robinson’s undoing,” said Ronald Clark, who represented Mayes.

Defense attorneys continued to attack the credibility of the government’s key witnesses after the verdict was read. Several former El Rukn members have testified in the three El Rukn trials.

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“They were the real bad guys,” said Eugene O’Malley, Craig’s attorney. “They were the real killers.”


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