News


Members of violent “hybrid” gang in Gadsden County charged with criminal racketeering

2/27/2008
 
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey and Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young today announced the second round of indictments from the 18th Statewide Grand Jury against seven members of a violent North Florida gang. Authorities with the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Offices arrested two members of the gang in Gadsden, Leon and Jefferson counties. The two arrested and three others already in custody will be charged with criminal racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and conspiracy to traffic in cannabis and could each spend up to 120 years in prison if convicted of these charges.

“As this case exemplifies, gangs pose a serious threat to every part of our state, but through cooperative efforts we will continue to take a strong stance against these criminal enterprises and protect our communities and neighborhoods,” said Attorney General McCollum.

Those arrested are Terrance Shorter, 28; Quintarius Shorter, 25; Gabriel James, 26; Aaron Thomas, 29; and Daltonica Shorter, 33. Both James and Quintarius Shorter are also facing separate first-degree murder charges in Gadsden County. All defendants are currently being held on $1.5 million bonds as ordered by Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll, the presiding judge of the 18th Statewide Grand Jury. Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will use the racketeering charges to prosecute the gang as an organized criminal operation. The case will be filed in the 9th Judicial Circuit. Two additional members remain fugitives and are charged with the same crimes.

The arrests mark the culmination of a lengthy investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)’s Tallahassee Regional Operations Center and the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office into a series of unsolved murders in Gadsden County. During the course of the murder investigations, evidence of numerous other crimes, such as home invasion robberies, drug trafficking and various other violent crimes, was developed and led to the indictments.

“Our agents doggedly pursued this case for two years,” said FDLE Commissioner Bailey. “Through the cooperative efforts of FDLE, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, an organized group of violent criminals has been removed from our streets.”

The investigation identified the alleged gang members as individuals connected to widespread criminal activity including several murders, statewide drug trafficking and witnesses tampering. The individuals were arrested over the course of a two-day tactical operation coordinated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with assistance from the U.S. Marshals, the Florida Capitol Police and the State Attorney’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit. During the sweep, several thousands of dollars in cash and several vehicles were seized. Forfeiture proceeding have been initiated upon these assets, including a Cadillac and a Dodge Charger.

“Gangs are a dangerous threat and we will continue to fight these criminal operations with all of our strength and available resources,” said Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young. “Gadsden County will take the lead whenever possible to protect our families and our communities.”

The gang has been classified by investigators as a “hybrid gang,” one which operates locally without national ties. Hybrid gang members rarely exhibit the traditional gang tattoos, signs and colors, but are often just as dangerous if not more destructive than traditional gangs and hold smaller communities hostage under their violent and terrifying influence.

The 18th Statewide Grand Jury was launched by the Attorney General’s Office in August to investigate criminal gang activity including crimes involving narcotics or other dangerous drugs and robbery, as well as violations of the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization (RICO) Act. An interim report, which included legislative recommendations for combating the spread of gangs and gang violence, was released in early January and is available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/MRAY7AVLTL/$file/EighteenthStatewideGrandJury.pdf

Additionally, the Attorney General is supporting proposed legislation which, based on the Grand Jury’s recommendations, will help law enforcement and prosecutors combat gang activity by streamlining the definition of gang members, enhancing the ability for prosecutors to include previous criminal actions under RICO charges, and creating a “Gang Kingpin” statute. The legislation also incorporates the Grand Jury’s recommendations for harsher penalties and restricts felons and delinquents from possessing bullet-proof vests, an important public safety measure. Under the suggested bill, there will be increased penalties for habitual offenders convicted of gang-related crimes and new laws to better protect witnesses.

The bill also creates a registration requirement for gang members and encourages local law enforcement to work closely with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to use and maintain the criminal gang database. Other provisions of the bill include remedies that allow for civil injunctions to be issued against gangs and their members and the creation of the Drug Control Strategy and Criminal Gang Committee within the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council. A summary of the bill is online at:
http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/KGRG-7B5KLB/$file/KeyProvisions-Legislation.pdf

For more information, contact:
Sandi Copes
850.245.0150
Sandi.Copes@myfloridalegal.com

Michael Morrison
Public Information Officer
FDLE - Tallahassee
(850) 410-8258