We’ve seen big gang roundups in Southwest Florida in the past. Most recently, we covered the takedown of the Lake Boyz in Fort Myers.
We decided to look back at what’s happened since the 21 arrests that were made back in January 2017.
It’s a mixed bag of results: Some found guilty; one off the hook completely for charges faced; and 13 still need to face a jury.
Thursday, State Attorney Amira Fox of the 20th Judicial Circuit told us she is confident in the cases going to trial this year.
“This group has tormented the good citizens of the Harlem Lakes neighborhood for years,” Fox said.
Fox was chief assistant state attorney when the 21 arrests were made two years ago.
“Any crime committed while you’re a member of a criminal enterprise can qualify you for a racketeering charge, which … can carry a much more significant sentence,” Fox said.
The legal process proved to be anything but clear cut. Year to date, juries have found four accused members not guilty and two accused members guilty of racketeering charges related to Lake Boyz activity and affiliation.
“When you do an investigation, working with the state attorney’s office by the time an arrest is made, you’ve already built your case,” Fox said.
Attorney Scott Moorey said one reason the state is fighting an uphill battle for convictions is confidential informants are often necessary during investigation but tricky in the courtroom.
“The defendant made a choice to become a member of the Lake Boyz and commit crimes with the Lake Boyz,” Moorey said. “The state is asking that you hold the defendant accountable.”
One accused member had his charges dropped. One took a plea deal and is waiting for sentencing.
Michael Chatman-Dillard and Detron Williams are accused Lake Boyz members. They both violated terms of their pretrial release by being in contact with their co-defendants. Deputies found them just feet away from where a mix-tape party took place in Lehigh Acres just feet away from where a victim was shot and killed.
Moorey said defendants in the next wave of trials will likely see lesser charges brought against them.
But even if they aren’t charged with racketeering, many accused members face all types of other charges.
“From a defendant’s standpoint, you can win the battle, lose the war,” Moorey said. “You may be win on 15 of your major counts, not guilty on racketeering but be convicted on one second-degree felony that puts you in 15 years of prison.”
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