Jury selection in Native Mob case begins

  • Article by: DAN BROWNING
  • Star Tribune
  • January 22, 2013 - 10:20 PM

Security was tight Tuesday in a Minneapolis federal courtroom where jurors were being chosen for a racketeering case allegedly involving three members of an American Indian gang known for terrorizing people from the Twin Cities to reservations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond.

The U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota says the case targeting members of the Native Mob is one of the most important gang prosecutions to come out of Indian Country.

"First, this gang entices or coerces young Native American boys into criminal activities," said Jeanne Cooney, spokeswoman for the office. "Second, while the actions of this gang negatively impact the community at large, they disproportionately hurt those who live on our reservations, and in and around our native communities."

By charging the defendants under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, she said, prosecutors hope to deter others from engaging in criminal gang behavior. The RICO statute is used not only to target individual criminals, but also the criminal organization to which they belong in the hopes of crippling it, Cooney said.

57-count indictment

The Native Mob case began a year ago and led to charges against 25 reputed members. Authorities describe the gang as a highly structured organization that started in Minneapolis in the 1990s and became known for using beatings and shootings to intimidate rivals and silence would-be snitches.

The 57-count indictment in the case stretches back a decade and includes allegations of murder, drug trafficking and robbery. Twenty-two defendants have pleaded guilty, and some of them are among the 300 prospective witnesses against the three remaining defendants: Wakinyon Wakan McArthur, 34, of Bemidji, Anthony Francis Cree, 26, and William Earl Morris, 25, both of Cass Lake.

Opening arguments are expected to begin Monday in the 13th-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge John Tunheim.

According to the indictment, McArthur, also known as Kon and Killa, had a leadership role in the gang, while Cree, known as Pun, and Morris, known as Odie, were lower-level thugs.

Chief, co-chief, war chief

Prosecutors say the gang was led by an "Ogema" and "co-Ogema," Ojibwe for chief and co-chief, who assigned criminal acts, maintained discipline, managed personnel and arranged for council meetings. Below them was the war chief, who oversaw actions against rival gangs, a treasurer who distributed money, a chief enforcer who maintained internal discipline and regional "reps" who oversaw geographical regions.

A flavor of the evidence to be presented in the weeks-long trial can be gleaned from court filings related to the co-defendants who have pleaded guilty. One is Shelby Gene Boswell, 21, of Cloquet, who boasted that he used a bat when he joined a group of men dressed in red and black -- the Native Mob's colors -- who savagely beat a young man, his father and his girlfriend in 2010.

Another, Alex John Jones, 21, of Minneapolis, admitted to attempted murder and witness tampering in 2010, which got him promoted to the position of "Southside rep." He participated in a drive-by shooting at the home of a rival juvenile gang member, and the beating of a person they suspected of being a snitch. He was promoted to war chief in 2011. One of his co-defendants said at the council meeting, "I've seen you in action; you're a beast."

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493

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