In the second Lake Boyz trial, another man is charged with racketeering in the ongoing trials in Fort Myers; however, the judge dismissed jurors early to resolve a potential conflict for the defense attorney.
Jurors heard opening statements for the case of Tommy Williams on Thursday before being dismissed.
“When you have a group sitting there, it’s much easier to be guilty by association,” said Nicole Waid, Former U.S. Prosecutor.
February 2017, police and prosecutors held a news conference announcing the massive round up and arrest of 23 accused Lake Boys gang members. But, in August, a jury found four of them not guilty of racketeering charges. That’s why Waid said this second trial with Williams is important.
“If they lose this, I think that you could very well see further dismissals,” Waid said.
Already this week, the state is dropping the racketeering charge against Williams’ co-defendant, Natyri Pitts. Between dismissals and acquittals, Waid said the community’s trust is on the line.
“Often times acquittals and things of that nature actually go to the core of whether or not somebody is going to feel safe reporting something to the police,” Waid said. “If this is also a not guilty, then they’re really going to have to assess whether you want to expend those resources.”
Waid said resources easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trial like this.
“Some of these defendants are facing 25 years in prison, right?” Waid said. “You’re expending an enormous amount of time building their defense.”
And with 17 defendants still awaiting trial, Waid said the state may need to re-evaluate future prosecutions depending on the outcome of the Williams case.
“The community kind of needs to know; listen what are we doing with the rest of these cases?” Waid said. “Because, again, I think it comes back to a trust issue.”
When asked about the cost of the Lake Boyz case, a spokesperson said they could not comment on the active case. However, she said there is no way to tally the cost of any case because prosecutors are working on more than one case at time.