New gang prosecution unit leads to indictments of alleged gang members

A newly created statewide gang prosecution unit is starting to yield results, officials say.

The Georgia Attorney General’s office announced this week the Gang Prosecution Unit’s first indictments, involving two alleged members of the 1-8 Trey Bloods and seven alleged members of the Red Tape Gang. Both gangs, with a presence in Athens-Clarke County, has ties to the national Bloods street gang, with Red Tape Gang also having affiliation with Sex Money Murder and the Rollin’ 20s the office said.

“These indictments are a direct result of our strong partnerships with local and state law enforcement, who want to ensure that the cases they investigate are pursued vigorously in court,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a release. “Wherever criminal street gangs are operating, Georgians want to know that the cavalry is coming.”

In the 1-8 Try Bloods indictments, Nigel Harvey is charged with 14 counts of violation of the street gang terrorism and prevention act, five counts of possession of firearm by first offender probationer, as well as other charges stemming from incidents in March and July 2022. Nicholas Wiseman faces 18 counts of violation of the street gang terrorism and prevention act, six counts of possession of firearm by a convicted felon and other charges stemming from incidents in March and May 2022. Harvey could face a potential maximum penalty of 370 years in prison, while Wiseman could face up to 466 years in prison. The AG’s office didn’t provide details of the alleged incidents.

The Red Tape Gang indictment resulted in 53 charges, including multiple counts of violation of the street gang terrorism and prevention act, robbery, assault, drugs and weapons charges, filed against Miquan Pittard, Raekwon Smith, Antonio Thomas, Jr., Kentrevis Daniel, Jyterious Turner, Dedrique Baughns, and Jaylan Martin. Defendants face potential maximum penalties of 120 to 155 years in prison, if convicted. Charges stemmed from a confrontation at a convenience store, which resulted in the assault and robbery of an individual in August 2022.

This is the fourth gang indictment the gang prosecution unit has obtained in Athens-Clarke County and all were obtained on Tuesday.

“With our new Gang Prosecution Unit, we are dedicating every resource available to disrupting the growing gang networks that are terrorizing our communities,” Carr said.

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

The creation of the unit was spearheaded by Carr and Gov. Brian Kemp. Former Fulton County prosecutor Cara Convery leads the unit.

“It was a tough decision to leave (the Fulton County DA’s Office) but ultimately I was really excited about the opportunity to grow something and make it into something that is going to impact the statewide community,” Convery told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during an interview in August.

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Convery’s team now includes four prosecutors who work with prosecutors across the state.

“I want the most effective prosecution of gangs statewide,” she said. “We care about those communities, wherever they are statewide. It’s not in just the Buckheads or the super affluent communities. Sometimes it means the most vulnerable spaces are spaces where unfortunately poverty and these gangs have been able to take strongholds.”

Convery said Georgia’s gang problem includes national and local gangs and local gangs with national ties. Members can be found both in communities and in the state’s prison system, she said. It’s an issue her former boss, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, has taken on with alacrity.

“I’m not going to negotiate with gang members. I am not going to allow pleas. We are going to find you, we are going to convict you and we are going to send you to prison for the rest of your days and I’m not apologizing for that,” Willis said last month while announcing a 220-count indictment involving 26 alleged members of the Drug Rich gang.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

It was her most recent use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against suspected gang members. Willis has used RICO at least five times to target alleged gangs, including Young Thug and YSL.

“RICO is a tool that allows prosecutors offices and law enforcement to tell the whole story,” she said. “We use as a tool so (the jury) can have all the information to make a wise decision.”

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Because not every judicial circuit has the manpower Fulton County does, Convery hopes her office can help smaller jurisdictions.

“I believe in the concept of trying to work together to take on this problem,” she said.

GBI Special Agent in Charge Ken Howard oversees the GBI’s gang task force.

“(Gangs) are in every county, every city, no matter how rural,” he said. “They have a presence, a very strong presence.”

Combatting the problem is a constant challenge, particularly within the prison system when inmates affiliate with gangs behind bars; some return to their original alliances upon release, he said. Gang investigations can take longer and be more difficult than other cases, he said.

“You don’t get a lot of cooperation from citizens when you are doing gang crimes,” he said. “A lot of times is because the citizens are afraid that if the gang find out they are cooperating, they would be retaliation.”

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The GBI and Butts County Sheriff’s Office just completed a year-long investigation that yielded 200 arrest warrants against 69 defendants, including 16 suspected members of the Gangster Disciples. The investigation targeted a suspected hybrid street gang accused of aggravated assaults, drive-by shootings, drug trafficking and weapon offenses.

The GBI recruits officers from rural and small law enforcement agencies to join the gang task force, which allows them to share intelligence, trends, evidence and information.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Capt. Ralph Woolfolk, the Atlanta Police Department’s former homicide commander, is now focused on gangs as the department’s special enforcement section’s assistant commander. His department worked with state state partners to ensure officers are properly trained in identifying gang members and crimes through the state’s gang statue.

“That’s the purpose of the training, that we utilize the full scale of our police department, the size and strength of our entire police department to fully understand that gang statue and its appropriate use,” said Woolfolk, who oversees fugitives, gangs and asset forfeiture for the department.

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Authorities say gangs are behind 75 to 80 percent of violent crime throughout metro Atlanta, including many homicide cases. With more than 50,000 documented gang members across the state, according to state databases, and an increasing number of gang members released from the prison system on a regular basis, Woolfolk said working together with other agencies such as the Fulton County DA, AG’s Office and GBI is essential.

“It’s a true collaborative that hinges heavily on sharing information on training and data and preparation and research,” he said. “We are already seeing a significant impact, we are seeing the impact from a data perspective surrounding violent crime being committed in our city, as we see violent crime trends have been correlated with specific gang operations we’ve done throughout these city. We are confident our efforts are working.”