Friendships, phone calls and photos do not add up to conspiracy, according to defense attorneys for four men charged as part of an allegedly violent Atlantic City drug-trafficking organization.
Circumstances — but not necessarily evidence — connect Kareem Bailey, Terry Davis, Lamar Macon and Dominique Venable to the Dirty Blok gang, said their attorneys during closing arguments in their federal trial in Camden.
The four are charged with conspiracy and other crimes after an FBI-led investigation ended with 34 people charged March 26, 2013, as being either members or associates of the gang that allegedly ruled the drug trade in Atlantic City’s Stanley Holmes Village and the surrounding neighborhoods. The four are the first to go on trial.
Growing up in Atlantic City, the men knew each other and have histories, but that doesn’t mean they were part of a conspiracy, the defense said.
In fact, Bailey is Davis’ uncle.
Defense attorneys pointed to lack physical evidence putting drugs and guns into the hands of the defendants.
That was done, in a large part, through testimony from former co-defendant Kareem Young.
In addition to saying he saw all four with drugs, and at least three with guns. Bailey, he said, had access. Young also testified about “trap houses” — Stanley Holmes apartments that were allegedly used to keep drugs and guns for the group.
“Disregard Kareem Young’s testimony,” Davis’ attorney, Gina Capuano, said. “He would lie about anything to get out of trouble or get less time.”
The government used pictures from inside trap houses, saying only trusted members of the conspiracy were allowed inside.
But defense attorneys pointed out that unidentified individuals who have not been charged are also pictured inside.
“How does that coincide with ‘they only let known members of this conspiracy inside’?” Capuano asked.
“Guilt by photo,” said Macon’s attorney, William Spade.
He theorized that the prosecution’s rebuttal would be that those uncharged people were part of the conspiracy. He likened it to the movie, “The Blob,” where the government would include in the conspiracy anyone who came into the case’s path.
Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Askin said that the statute of limitations has not passed and more could be charged, although he is concentrating on the current case.
“We have enough to worry about with 34 people,” he told the jurors. “You have enough to worry about with these four individuals.”
Of more than 40,000 calls the federal investigators went through, about 6,700 were deemed pertinent. But only 26 of those were made by Venable, attorney James Murphy said.
Davis was supposed to be “muscle” for the gang, his lawyer said. Except, he never traveled with Derry when he went for drug pickups in Paterson, nor did the alleged gunman participate in trips to the shooting range with other alleged shooters for the group.
Capuano also pointed to 10 shooting incidents that were allegedly part of keeping a strong hold on the Stanley Holmes drug trade, pointing out that none involved Davis.
“What don’t we see?” she asked. “The name Terry Davis. If he is their muscle, if he is one of their guns, why is it his name isn’t on any one of these?”
Murphy asked where the fruits of this allegedly successful drug-trafficking operation was. The group didn’t even have cars, he pointed out, but instead are accused of sharing bicycles.
He pointed to the killing of Tyquinn James, a hit allegedly ordered by leader Mykal Derry and carried out by his brother, Malik.
Surveillance video shows James outside an Atlantic City liquor store when a male rides by on a bike, extends his right arm and shoots James in the head.
“The drive-by shooting is done on a bicycle,” Murphy said.
But the four weren’t even tied to the shootings, their attorneys pointed out, some saying that they shouldn’t have even been brought up.
In federal cases, the prosecution gets to offer a rebuttal following the defenses’ closings. Askin began his Wednesday, and is expected to finish early Thursday. Then, the jury will be instructed.
Deliberations are expected to begin Thursday afternoon.