08/25/2002

LA Gang Members Convicted in National Cocaine Ring

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal jurors on Friday convicted a gang member accused in connection with the murder of a community activist, and another co-defendant gang member of taking part in a national cocaine ring.

Maurice Brown, 33, and Samuel Green were found guilty of possession with intent to distribute and other drug charges. But jurors acquitted co-defendants, Tyson Jamar, 22, and Stephen Faulkner, 53, of related charges.

According to a federal indictment, the violent drug distribution ring was responsible for the death of anti-crime activist James Richards, 55, who was gunned down in front of his Venice area home in October 2000.

Brown and Byron Lopez, 23, were arrested in connection with Richards' murder. Richards was killed because he "was reporting their narcotics activities to law enforcement," according to the indictment.

Prosecutors were barred from discussing the killing in the drug ring case.

Brown and his gang member partners were accused of running a cocaine ring that used a music company as a cover for some of their activities. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lowe said that along with the Venice area of Los Angeles, the ring operated in Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial that the U.S. government lacked sufficient evidence to convict their clients.

Brown was convicted of conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute and distributing cocaine. Green was found guilty of conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute and for carrying a gun in a drug trafficking crime.

They face mandatory life in prison at a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian scheduled for Dec. 2.

Jamar was acquitted of conspiracy but prosecutors said the government would likely retry him on three charges the jury deadlocked on, including cocaine distribution.

Faulkner was acquitted of conspiracy and cocaine distribution.

Others charged with participating in the drug ring have pleaded guilty to related charges, including alleged ring leader Corey Mitchell.

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