Gang leaders face life for Cobb taxi robberies, killing disabled man

Two gang leaders will likely spend the rest of their lives in prison for a pair of Marietta armed robberies, one of which ended in the death of a 22-year-old man who was mentally challenged.

Abdul Malik Griffin, 22, pleaded guilty Monday morning to his charges of voluntary manslaughter, gang violations and two counts of armed robbery, according to the Cobb County district attorney’s office.

He was sentenced to life in prison by Cobb Superior Court Judge S. Lark Ingram.

James Lee Black, 21, admitted Jan. 10 that he was the one who shot 22-year-old Tomas Arriola. Black pleaded guilty to charges of murder along with the gang and robbery counts.

Black is awaiting sentencing, but his charges carry a minimum sentence of life in prison, which is what the DA’s office said it plans on asking for.

Both men are members of the “Hard Head Money Clique” gang, prosecutors said in a news release.

“These men held leadership positions in their gang, which has been one of the more violent and active street gangs in our county,” said prosecutor Jesse Evans.

The first robbery occurred in the early hours of Feb. 18, 2015. The men held up a driver taking them to the St. Augustine condominium complex on Franklin Road.

About 12 hours later, Arriola was in the front seat of his father’s taxi when they picked up Black and Griffin.

The father was beaten and Arriola was shot in the shoulder, an injury he later died from at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

While running away, one of the men touched another vehicle, leaving fingerprints investigators recovered. Marietta cops also found a cigarette from the shooting scene that matched Black’s DNA.

Detectives “immediately noticed the similarities in the two cases.” pulled cell phone data from the number that called for one of the cabs, and found security footage of the men wearing the same clothes described in both incidents, prosecutors said.

Griffin was arrested March 2, 2015, in Powder Springs. He gave up Black to investigators. Black was arrested April 4 in Buffalo, New York. They were indicted May 21, 2015.

“We were pleased to be able to work closely with our law enforcement partners to hold the defendants accountable for their crimes on behalf of the grieving Arriola family,” Evans said.

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