It all ended three years ago, when a gunman stepped from behind a shrub in Dolton and opened fire on the car that had carried Keith Daniels, his girlfriend, and their two “gorgeous little kids” home from a Sunday family dinner, riddling it with bullet holes.
Hoping to draw the gunfire away from his family, Daniels leaped from the car. A bullet pierced his heart and he fell to the ground. He was “gasping for his last few breaths” in front of his 6-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl as a gunman stood over him, firing “gunshot after gunshot after gunshot,” a federal prosecutor explained Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski described the cold-blooded execution of Daniels, an FBI informant, to a jury. He asked, “who would kill a young father in front of his kids?”
Then, Otlewski pointed to the man seated behind him.
“A cold blooded murderer,” Otlewski said. “And his name is Paris Poe.”
Poe did not react as Otlewski described the slaying that gave an emphatic exclamation point to a decade-long crime spree committed by Chicago’s so-called “super gang,” the Hobos. Opening statements kicked off Wednesday in the federal racketeering trial of six alleged leaders of the gang, including Poe, at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
The trial could last months.
Otlewski called the Hobos “an all-star team of the worst of the worst” of Chicago’s street gangs. It’s a “conglomerate” of Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and other gangs. Federal prosecutors have tied the Hobo crew to nine slayings, ending with Daniels’. Their crime spree allegedly lasted from 2004 to 2013.
“You will look into the eyes of murderers,” Otlewski told the jury.
The feds believe Daniels was murdered for snitching on the Hobos. Despite Daniels’ death, the judge has ruled he may speak from the grave through grand jury testimony offered before his murder.
The six alleged Hobos wore dress shirts and sweaters as they sat in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, where security is tight and the jurors are anonymous. The alleged Hobos’ attorneys also spoke to the jury, and it soon became clear that the Chicago Police Department’s credibility could be going on trial, as well.
Beau Brindley, attorney for alleged Hobo leader Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester, said Chicago police coerced witnesses into testifying against Chester, 39. He said his client, nicknamed for his birth defect, has dealt drugs and helped robbed jewelry stores as a teenager, but he’s not “some kind of a gang leader.”
“There are no crippled kingpins, and Gregory Chester was no gang leader,” Brindley said, his Iowa twang filling the courtroom.
Brindley also hopes to inject claims about CPD’s “code of silence,” taken from a settled federal lawsuit, into the Hobo trial when prosecutors put their first witness on the stand Thursday. They are expected to call Nicholas Roti, the former chief of CPD’s organized crime bureau.
The judge rejected Brindley’s bid to bring up claims of detainee abuse at the notorious Homan Square police facility.
Poe’s lawyer, Patrick Blegen, told jurors that no forensic evidence will tie his client to the murders of Daniels or CPD informant Wilbert Moore. Poe, 36, is accused in both. Blegen also said Daniels’ girlfriend has admitted that the man who shot Daniels wore a mask.
“It’s not there,” Blegen said. “But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the evidence.”
Otlewski said the Hobos used teamwork, homework, rental cars and police scanners to commit their crimes.
The prosecutor told jurors about robberies, shootings and drug dealing; about guns with bullets that could tear through a car, men hanging out of car windows as they opened fire on rival gang leaders, and a car chase involving NBA player Bobby Simmons.
Poe allegedly stole a $200,000 white gold necklace from Simmons at gunpoint in 2006. Simmons and others chased Poe in a car, and Poe allegedly opened fire on him.
Simmons is on the trial’s witness list.
“It wasn’t a movie,” Otlewski said. “This was real life. The real work of the Hobos.”
He also held in the air an iron that was turned “all the way up” as it was used to torture two brothers suspected of drug dealing. He showed jurors gun after gun allegedly used by the Hobo crew. Jurors also saw photos of the bloody bodies of Moore and New Town Black Disciple leader Antonio “Beans” Bluitt, who wore an eye patch and still had a cigar hanging out of his mouth after his assassination, allegedly at the hands of the Hobos.
Otlewski said the same gun used to kill Bluitt was used to kill Daniels.
The prosecutor also said alleged Hobo Derrick Vaughn was caught on tape bragging about his role in one of the murders, and he told the jury “you’re literally going to hear him make machine-gun sounds.”
“For nearly a decade, the Hobos’ ruthlessness and violence struck fear into the hearts of people living on the South Side of Chicago,” Otlewski said.
The prosecutor said their crimes should end “right here, right now, in this courtroom during this trial.”
“Justice will prevail in this courtroom,” Otlewski said.