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Judge orders split in Four Corner Hustlers trial

The trial of reputed Four Corner Hustlers street gang boss Labar “Bro Man” Spann (above) and two others identified as members of the gang was to begin in September. But lawyers for the three wanted more time to prepare because prosecutors might seek the death penalty. | Chicago Police Department

One of the biggest gang trials in Chicago history has been split in two.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ordered Thursday that eight of the 11 defendants in the racketeering conspiracy case against members of the Four Corner Hustlers will go to trial in September.

Last month, Durkin ordered that the trial of the other three defendants — who could potentially face the death penalty if convicted — would commence in September 2020, a year later than originally planned. The delay stemmed from the Justice Department’s lengthy process of deciding if the death penalty should be pursued.

And while prosecutors did not object to pushing the trial back a year, they did not want to go through two several-months-long trials that would include much of the same evidence.

“Nobody wants two four-month trials,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Salib, the lead prosecutor in the case, said at a hearing last month. “The evidence is going to be the same.”

Durkin himself said: “I don’t want to try two four-month trials with the same evidence.”

At the same time, attorneys for the non-death penalty eligible defendants — several of whom asked to be tried individually — objected to moving their trial date back a year.

In his order Thursday, Durkin wrote: “The inconvenience and expense of two lengthy trials does not outweigh the Defendants’ right to a speedy trial when the proposed delay is twelve months long. Moreover, the parties and the Court have had this date reserved for nearly a year. Therefore, the September 3, 2019 trial date stands for the defendants who are not eligible for the death penalty.”

The defendants, indicted in September 2017, are accused of being involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy dating to the mid-1990s that includes the commission of six murders between 2000 and 2003. Among the murders was that of Latin Kings boss Rudy “Kato” Rangel Jr.

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According to federal authorities, from the mid-1990s until the September 2017 indictment, the Four Corner Hustlers operated in West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park on the West Side and in the former LeClaire Courts public housing development on the Southwest Side, dealing drugs, robbing rivals and using violence and intimidation to keep their victims and any witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement.

Federal prosecutors have linked the six murders to Tremayne Thompson, Juhwun Foster, Sammie Booker and Labar “Bro Man” Spann — the purported leader of the gang. However, prosecutors have said Booker is not being considered for a possible death penalty.